Two state representatives, Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) and Tom Murt (R-Montgomery), had a heated phone exchange the evening of August 3 which resulted in Murt calling police to his home.
Murt issued a press release on August 4 that accused Sims of using several phrases during the phone call, including “I will ruin you,” and “You are finished.”
Murt made the call after receiving a text message from Sims that Murt described as “angry, enraged and wrathful, accusing me of treating LGBTQ+ rights as a ‘joke or a football.’”
While Murt was not sure of the exact reason for the text message, he said that it may have been in response to his proposed legislation for an LGBTQ+ Bill of Rights.
Murt, a seven-term Republican, is not seeking re-election this year.
Neither Sims nor a representative have responded to PGN’s inquiry about the text message or the phone call.
Sims wrote a now-deleted post on Twitter which read:
“Lol in my entire life I’ve never said these things to Tom or anyone else. I did make it abundantly clear to him that killing the effort to advance LGBTQ legislation in Pennsylvania with his weird campaign effort is something that I’d make sure advocates knew about. And they do.”
Sims also wrote on Twitter, in a back-and-forth with Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), a post which read: “When people pretend to care about Equality legislation that they’ve had all term to advance, just in time for the elections, and not in enough time to actually advance Equality.”
According to reports from the Pennsylvania Capital Star, Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia), one of the lawmakers initially associated with the bill, withdrew his name because Murt allegedly did not get input from LGBTQ groups about the legislation. Murt says he spoke with LGBTQ organizations but declined to name them.
Murt describes himself as a moderate member of his party who has been a public supporter of LGBTQ rights since he first took office. He has introduced and co-sponsored bi-partisan bills in the past, including an anti-bullying bill and a bill to expand hate crimes law.
Representatives Pamela DeLissio (D-Philadelphia), and Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) who have previously voted for pro-LGBTQ legislation, have also signed on to Murt’s bill.
Without addressing the incident with Sims, Murt responded to PGN about the proposed LGBTQ+ Bill of Rights, saying “We looked at states with great protections for LGBTQ+ people, including California, Hawaii, Connecticut,” he explained, “and we looked at bad examples as well. But we identified the good points based around specific categories including adoption rights, conversion therapy, etc. We have drafted something which is going to be good for Pennsylvania.”
Murt concluded by saying that it would be “tragic” if Pennsylvania did not pass an LGBTQ Bill of Rights.
There have been efforts to pass a statewide nondiscrimination bill since the 1970s. In 1975, Governor Milton Shapp signed the first executive order outlawing discrimination in state employment, but passing a wider nondiscrimination bill has been elusive in Harrisburg.
“LGBTQ protections have been floundering in the Legislature for decades and we would welcome any allies with open arms into our fight to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens,” Anne Wakabayashi told the Capital Star. Wakabayashi is a Democratic political consultant and chair of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
The Supreme Court recently made LGBTQ nondiscrimination — with notable religious loopholes — the law of the land in the U.S. But additional protections at the state level would be welcomed by advocates. Philadelphia passed its nondiscrimination bill in 1982.