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INTERVIEW: Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Sims Talks DOMA, Gay Marriage, And Why Republicans Tried to Silence Him

Last week, State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly-gay lawmaker elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature, was silenced by Republican colleagues on the Pennsylvania House floor when he attempted to speak about the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on DOMA.

Queerty had an opportunity to interview the 34-year-old congressman (sadly, not in person) about being censored by Republicans, as well as his thoughts on marriage equality, and his current relationship status. (Good news, fellas: He’s single.)

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) was among the Republicans who silenced you last week, citing you were going to make an “open rebellion against God’s law.” Had he read your comments prior to you speaking? How did he know what you were going to say?

Not only had he not read my comments prior to me speaking, I hadn’t prepared any comments. I had told the Speaker of the House that I wanted to commemorate the historic nature of the Supreme Court cases, but [Rep. Metcalfe] didn’t even know that.

Is it safe to say Rep. Metcalfe jumped to conclusions?

Yes, it’s safe to say he jumped to conclusions.

How would you define “separation of church and state”? And do you feel Metcalfe and other conservatives respect those boundaries?

I would define the separation of church and state the way the Supreme Court has defined the separation of church and state and that is: that I live in a country that will not promote any religion above any other religion, and that will not treat me based on any one’s interpretation of any particular religion.

And no, I don’t think that a number of Republicans are respecting the separation of church and state. And I’ll tell you why it’s so frustrating to me: More often than not, you’ll hear Republican legislatures talking about the sanctity of the constitution. Well, it’s in that constitution where we find the separation of church and state.

Do you feel Metcalfe and other conservatives are motivated by bigotry or homophobia?

Here’s the thing: I can’t tell what’s in somebody’s heart or mind. But I can see their actions. I think Rep. Metcalfe has had ample opportunities to hear and see the impact of the legislation that he pushes. And see that the impact is one of hate and one of discrimination. And he still chooses to do it.

DOMA has been overturned. Gay marriage is now legal in 13 states. What are your thoughts on the future of LGBT rights in America?

Right now we’re seeing something that in public policy is awful, but in law is actually really helpful, and that’s chaos. There are states in this country where LGBT people, like me, have almost no rights at all. There are states where LGBT rights have full civil rights and now marriage.

I think what’s going to happen over the next three, four, five years, is we’re going to see a whole bunch of litigation. In state supreme courts, in federal courts, and ultimately in the high court. And it’s going to take the U.S. Supreme Court to help sort out this chaos.

And by every indication I’ve seen, when this Supreme Court chooses to address the larger issue of whether or not marriage equality should be the law of the entire land, I think it will do so in the affirmative.

You are the first openly gay lawmaker elected to your state legislature. Do you think that signifies a change in attitude among Pennsylvanians? Are people growing more accepting?

Most definitely. The surprise isn’t that I was elected. The surprise should be that it took so long. Pennsylvania, despite having a Republican Governor and a Republican General Assembly, is not a conservative state. Pennsylvanians poll very well on LGBT non-discrimination. And now we know that a majority of Pennsylvanians even support marriage equality.

You have said you are going to introduce measure in the state House allowing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. When do you hope to do that?

We just went on legislative recess. So for the next few months, Rep. Steve McCarter, the co-sponsor of this bill, and I are going to take the bill to the streets. We’re going to get out and meet with our other legislatures. And begin to build a co-sponsorship list. We get back into session at the end of September, and I would like to have this bill already introduced by the time we get back.

Do you think it can pass?

I am hopeful. How long it will take is the better question. Bills and legislation take time to percolate. They take time to get through the right committees. They take time to build the right support. My job is to make sure that time is as short as possible, and I am hopeful, I do honestly believe that a marriage equality bill could become law in Pennsylvania.

I have one final question that I have to ask or Queerty readers will never forgive me…

(Laughs.) Oh god, Graham… I’m single.

You’re single?!

I am.

By:           Graham Gremore
On:           Jul 3, 2013
Tagged: , , , , ,
  • 8 Comments
    • Homophile
      Homophile

      woof

      Jul 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 1EqualityUSA
      1EqualityUSA

      We will find our place in the sun. The “uglies” are out in force because they know the gig is up. Hate is so yesterday.

      Jul 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fredo777
      fredo777

      A. If Mr. Sims is to be taken at his word, Rep. Metcalfe is an asshole.

      B. I wish Rep. Sims every success in his efforts to bring marriage equality to the state of PA.

      C. Gotdayum! He is fine. Reminds me of Chris Salvatore, also. Another very handsome man.

      Jul 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • queerbec
      queerbec

      I grew up in Butler PA and I can tell you that it is filled with people like Rep. Metcalfe who believe that their religion and their Christ gives thematic free pass to spout the most hateful sentiments in the name of The Lord. Their religion is so deeply ingrained that any attempt to get them to see things differently is viewed with suspicion and fear. They believe they must evangelize the Word of The Lord under penalty of hellfire and damnation. It is their duty and obligation. This affords them with a self-righteousness and a superiority that is not only repugnant to the rest of us, but prevents them from bring open to new theological discussions, new translations of the Bible, and having to think for themselves. I am frankly shocked that more gay kids from Butler aren’t overdosing on the plethora of drugs that seem to permeate my old hometown or blowing their brains out with the thousands of huntin’ rifles present in nearly 2 out of every three homes. But I made it out and hope and pray that my LGBT sisters and brothers can continue to do so!

      Jul 4, 2013 at 2:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Teleny
      Teleny

      Rep. Brian Sims is very handsome. I am always proud of lbgt folks in public roles. Way to go Brian!

      Queerbeck is right. PA has been described as Pittsburgh and Philly on the ends and Alabama in the middle.

      Jul 4, 2013 at 5:40 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • manjoguy
      manjoguy

      Well, let’s say “…SOME Republicans.” We had a Republican (Richard Tisei) gay, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate here in Massachusetts running for a House seat in 2012. He probably would have won had not our awful democrat state machine put up a third(straw) candidate in the race. And, talking about “silencing” people, I am still appalled at how Obamacare was rammed down our throats at the last minute with an attitude of “you have to vote it before you know what’s in it.” Thank you Nancy Pelosi, a despicable politician. Many politicians are vile (and it’s not a partisan characteristic).

      Jul 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • #1SouthAfrican
      #1SouthAfrican

      Brian is simply gorgeous and a college football player at that, yummo! Hard to believe he’s single.

      Jul 7, 2013 at 5:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David
      David

      “The ‘Right’ of the People to discriminate based on ‘Religious Liberty’ and ‘States’ Rights’ vs. ‘Constitutional Law’ by D. N. Flint”

      Sen. Marco Rubio, Former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) all ask me to respect their ‘religious liberty’ because their civil rights matter more than my civil rights AND MY religious liberty. Now Jeb does admit that being able to marry the guy I love IS a civil right. Back in the day, some would say “That’s real white of ya Jeb.”

      I’m beginning to understand the entitlement issues Republicans really have. But as for ‘religious liberty’ and ‘civil rights’ let’s start with what we chose as the ‘Supreme Law of the Land’. Then we will look at how States and the People chose on their own to join a FEDERAL REPUBLIC and relinquish certain personal rights in order to benefit from that Republic.

      ‘Supreme Law of the Land’: “….This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but NO RELIGIOUS TEST SHALL EVER BE REQUIRED as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” – Article VI.

      Religious views are not to be used as a qualification for picking who we vote for. Religious views get no special rights to ignore Federal Laws. When people of a certain area decided to ASK to become a State they agreed to certain conditions and procedures. They gave up a certain amount of personal ‘sovereignty’ in order to enjoy the blessings of a ‘more perfect Union’.

      “Religious Liberty”: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment 1.

      This does not give you a religious excuse to violate civil law. “States’ Rights” do not give States the right to show religious preference any more than they can deny a citizen to publicly express his religious views. Just remember the difference between the guys who stone children because of their religious beliefs and the bakers, photographers or cops who claim to follow scripture (See Rom. 13:1-5).

      “States’ Rights”: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” – Amendment IX and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” – Amendment X.
      Note that the 9th talks of Rights whereas the 10th uses the word “POWERS” of the State and the people. There is no “States Rights” in the U.S. Constitution. Nor is there a ‘religious right’ for the people to deny Federal Rights to other citizens.
      Look for “States’ Rights” in Article IV [The States]
      Section 1 [Full Faith and Credit]
      ”Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.”
      Section 2 [Privileges and Immunities…]”The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states….”
      Section 3 [Admission of States]”New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress….”
      Section 4 [Guarantees to States]”The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

      (Wow, no religious exemption from civil rights) I hope certain ‘religious libertarians’ took notes. There will be a test later (Lev. 19:18 and Matt. 25:31-46).

      Jan 8, 2015 at 12:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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