My friend Brian Sims from Philadelphia became the first open LGBT person elected to the Pennsylvania legislature last November. Yet one more state where we rightfully take our place at the table. Brian is an articulate, passionate, compassionate, intelligent and talented young man. He defeated a twenty year plus incumbent in the Democratic primary by just over 200 votes.
Trust me, Brian is ready to give his considerable gifts and talents to the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to the nation.
So putting on a brand new tie, taking a good book on the Biafra War and with excitement I headed to Philadelphia to watch his swearing-in for his family and friends. The historic event was to take place at the ornate and majestic City Hall in the City of Brotherly Love. The court chambers held several hundred who had come to see history happen before their eyes.
The Court Chamber itself was a star with high ceiling and amazing wood work. The jury box was elevated but not as high as the seat of the presiding judge which seem to reach into the heavens. Clearly no defendant would have any doubt who was in charge and who would decide his/her fate! The crowd who packed the room came in their 'Sunday Best'. They all knew how important this moment was in the annuals of history of the LGBT community.
Those in power came to honor young Sims. The Democratic Minority Leader, the Treasurer of Pennsylvania, the head of the Philadelphia delegation, City Council members, elected officials from as far as Pittsburgh and openly LGBT elected judges who had already secured their place in history in Philadelphia.
The program was especially moving as political power brokers pay respect and homage to this special moment. Then Brian asked a few friends and comrade in arms to speak. The local LGBT newspaper publisher Mark Segal promise Sims that the LGBT community would have his back as he faced many daunting challenges. A member of the Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund spoke of the significance nationally of Sim's election.. Brian had asked me to speak a few words and I was honored to be included in such a moment.
Ted Martin of Equality Pennsylvania rocked the courtroom with his calm but passionate challenge to the elected officials in the room. He reminded the power brokers in the room that soon Pennsylvania would be the only state left in the Northeast without protections for LGBT people. Martin pointed to Sims and reminded his future colleagues that it was still legal in Pennsylvania for the newly elected legislator to be fired, denied room in a hotel or refused service in a restaurant.
The reaction and looks on Sim's peers faces was clearly one of shock as if they were realizing this for the first time. One of there own denied service or refuge in an Inn? Wow, suddenly it was real to them. Martin captured the spirit of the day with tough grace.
Then came the moment with Sims placing his hand on the Bible and taking the oath and yet one more barrier came falling down in the long and epic struggle for LGBT freedom. There wasn't a person in the room who didn't understand at that moment and as Sims spoke that a new day had dawn in the Keystone state.