First-ever openly gay Pa. legislator sworn into office

By Jon Campisi | Jan 3, 2013

History was made in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania this week when the Keystone

State’s first-ever openly gay legislator was sworn into office.

Brian Simms, 34, who ran unopposed in November’s general election against longtime state Rep. Babette Josephs for the 182nd State House District, officially became a Pennsylvania lawmaker during his recent swearing-in ceremony in Harrisburg.

Simms, a Democrat whose district is situated in Center City, Philadelphia, is a policy attorney and civil rights advocate who formerly worked as staff counsel for Policy and Planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association, according to a biography on his campaign website.

The lawyer-turned-lawmaker had also served as president of the board of directors for Equality Pennsylvania, a gay advocacy group, and as chairman of GALLOP, the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia.

Simms’ state House district includes the downtown Philadelphia neighborhoods of Rittenhouse, Fitler Square, Logan Square and parts of Washington Square West, Bella Vista, Graduate Hospital and Grays Ferry.

The district also includes a section commonly referred to as the “Gayborhood,” because of the large number of gay residents.

During his time with the Philadelphia Bar Association, his bio states, Simms worked with lawyers, state legislators and community groups on issues ranging from gender and pay inequality to environmental regulation.

Simms regularly lectures on topics such as policy and legal challenges facing the LGBT civil rights movement and he is a regular speaker at the Center for Progressive Leadership.

Before serving with the bar association, Simms worked as a disability attorney representing disabled professional employees.

He had also served as the senior law clerk at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Washington, D.C. office focusing on state and municipal compliance and enforcement.

Simms, a former college football player, is recognized as the only former NCAA football captain to have ever come out as a homosexual to his teammates, according to his biography.

Simms received his Bachelor of Science degree from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and his Juris Doctorate degree in International and Comparative Law from Michigan State University College of Law.

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