Pennsylvania’s primary election on June 2 is nearing, and the LGBTQ community needs to be heard. Locally, there are five races that are most relevant to our community. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those races include the state’s two incumbent out representatives, Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181st Dist.) and Brian Sims (D-182nd Dist.). Sims has a worthy, pro-LGBTQ opponent in Marisa Shaaban, but Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community needs stability, a friendly face and a known advocate, which is why PGN is endorsing Brian Sims. While PGN does not condone Sims’ behavior outside of Planned Parenthood, he has worked steadfastly to protect women’s reproductive rights and implement comprehensive sex education. Sims was also under an ethics investigation for three years but was largely vindicated, charged with two minor violations that equated to a small fine. During his time in office, he has introduced bills and resolutions in support of the Fairness Act — a statewide nondiscrimination law that has yet to pass — which he co-sponsors. He has also fought against conversion therapy and instituted insurance coverage of HIV medications, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Kenyatta is running uncontested, but as a staunch advocate for the LGBTQ community, PGN is sure to endorse him, and we are not alone. Last week, Pete Buttigieg announced that the leadership PAC he established, Win the Era, is making Kenyatta one of its first 22 endorsed candidates. Kenyatta also secured a Liberty City endorsement and a Working Families endorsement. Along with co-sponsoring the Fairness Act, Kenyatta introduced legislation requiring LGBTQ data collection in order to secure further funding for this community. He told PGN in March that he considers deep poverty to be one of the most pressing issues for Pennsylvania and co-sponsored a resolution recognizing poverty as a public health crisis.
In another important race, PGN is endorsing State Rep. Mary Isaacson (D-175th Dist.) who has three challengers on the ballot: Andre Del Valle, Jeff Dempsey and Vanessa McGrath. But none of her challengers have proven experience advocating for the LGBTQ community. Isaacson was integral to the opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments — an LGBTQ friendly affordable housing community for seniors. A co-sponsor of the Fairness Act, she also proposed legislation to enact an Economic Bill of Rights that would allow every Pennsylvanian to be provided access and coverage to comprehensive healthcare without discrimination from providers, ensuring gender-affirming surgeries and mental health care were covered. She told PGN in March she places importance on fighting against violence toward transgender people, especially trans women of color.
State Sen. Sharif Street (D-3rd Dist.) is running uncontested, but, like Kenyatta, he has done a great deal for the LGBTQ community during his tenure in office. He has sponsored a bill to have June named as Pride month. Additionally, he invited those LGBTQ members who have long fought for our rights to the capitol and to the floor of the senate and supports the Fairness Act.
The final candidate PGN is endorsing for the June 2 primary is State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st Dist.), who appears on the ballot as Lawrence M. Farnese Jr. and is running against Nikil Saval. Farnese has been a fierce ally and advocate to the LGBTQ community in the state senate since he took office in 2009. He is a member of the Pennsylvania LGBT Equality Caucus and has been very vocal about fighting for pro-LGBTQ bills, including the Fairness Act. He is known in the LGBTQ community for being present and willing to offer assistance with LGBTQ discriminatory matters.
During a pandemic, we need trusted leaders who will stand in our corner, which is why PGN is endorsing incumbents with a proven track record. These candidates, who were all also endorsed by Liberty City, have shown that they will fight for rights. We hope they will be even more vigilant now, when we need it most.