Pennsylvania set to get its first openly gay lawmaker

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Pennsylvania is set to get its first openly gay state lawmaker, as a 33 year old is set to win a Democratic State House primary, leaving him with an open path to election this November, unless an independent candidate decides to compete for the seat.

Brian Sims, a lawyer based in Philadelphia, is set to win the primary against his fellow Democratic opponent, Babette Josephs, with 51.6 percent of the vote, reports the Philadelphia Enquirer.

Mr Sims, the son of two military parents and a former football star, served as his opponent’s campaign treasurer when she won re-election in 2010. Ms Josephs, who is 71, has been herself a champion of liberal causes since first being elected to her post in 1984, though that did not stop her from approving strongly-worded leaflets against Mr Sims during the campaign leading up to the election.

In a statement, Mr Sims said: “It’s because of the work Babette has done over the years that I was able to run and win in a district like this… The campaign was about ideas and who could do the best job going forward, not a referendum on the past 27 years.”

It is possible that he could join the legislature simultaneously with another gay Democrat candidate, Chris Dietz, who is running in the Harrisburg area of the state.

Equality Pennsylvania, which Mr Sims once led, released a statement, saying: “This is a long overdue victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians… No longer will we have to embarrassingly admit that the place that gave birth to the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution has no openly gay members serving in its highest governing body. This is a relief and it gives us hope.”

The organisation also paid tribute to Ms Joseph, saying: “Rep. Babette Josephs has been a longtime fighter for LGBT civil rights and progressive causes and we have nothing but respect for her service and legacy. Equality Pennsylvania knows that a cadre of truly committed and often fearless elected state officials have been watching the backs of the LGBT community for some time now, and our gratitude will always be deep.”

There are currently no laws in the state against homophobic or transphobic hate crimes, nor against homophobic or transphobic discrimination in the workplace. Gay rights activists now hope that Mr Sims’ election might help in the step to move the state forward in making it more LGBT-friendly.