Brian Sims, the first out member of the Pennsylvania legislature, is running for lieutenant governor of the state.
“My time in the Pennsylvania legislature has taught me a lot about not only how Pennsylvania government works, but a lot about how it doesn’t,” Sims, a gay Democrat, said in a video released Monday. “It’s taught me a lot about how to work with people who don’t always agree with me. I think it’s time for me to take what I’ve learned in the House and to be able to bring that leadership to the direct service of the governor.”
The office is up for election in 2022. Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor, Democrat John Fetterman, announced last week that he will run for U.S. senator in 2022, as Republican Pat Toomey is not seeking reelection.
So far no U.S. state has had a lieutenant governor drawn from the LGBTQ+ community, although the U.S. territory of Guam has one, Josh Tenorio, a gay man who took office in 2019. Kate Brown, who is bisexual, was Oregon’s secretary of state before moving up to governor with John Kitzhaber’s resignation in 2015, as the state has no lieutenant governor.
Sims, now 42, was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012, representing a Philadelphia district. He has advocated for LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights legislation and a ban on conversion therapy, in addition to other progressive measures, such as expanding access to health care and promoting alternative energy. He has written about his use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to avoid contracting HIV.
He has not shied away from controversy. He once posted a photo of him giving Mike Pence the middle finger at a protest where Sims and others were voicing opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families. He has filmed himself calling out an antichoice demonstrator at a Planned Parenthood facility in Philadelphia. Last year he accused Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of hiding COVID-19 diagnoses and exposures for political gain.
Before being elected to the House, Sims, an attorney, was president of Equality Pennsylvania and chairman of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia. In the legislature, he chairs the LGBTQ Caucus.
Two states could beat Pennsylvania to the punch in having an out lieutenant governor. Mark Levine, a gay man currently in the Virginia House of Delegates, announced in January that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in the 2021 election. In Rhode Island, Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee will move up to governor when Gina Raimondo joins the Biden administration as secretary of Commerce, and the LGBTQ Victory Fund is urging McKee to appoint Donna Nesselbush, a former state senator who is lesbian, to take his place in the number 2 spot.
Victory Fund is not making endorsements in the 2022 election yet, but its vice president of communications, Elliot Imse, expressed enthusiasm about Sims. “Brian is a leading voice on LGBTQ equality issues in Pennsylvania and is relentless in exposing elected officials who oppose equality for our community,” Imse told The Advocate via email. “His outspokenness in the state legislature has brought statewide and even national attention to important issues in his state — from LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections to preventing the spread of the pandemic — and he would bring that same passion to the lieutenant governorship. Brian is a strong candidate and we are excited to see his race move forward.”