State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, said same-sex marriage “will become law” in Pennsylvania, either through legislation or judicial action.
Sims spoke Wednesday with Essential Pittsburgh about his LGBT anti-discrimination legislation and marriage equality bill.
He said most believe gay marriage will someday become legal in Pennsylvania, which is the only state in the Northeast without laws providing for civil unions or same-sex marriage.
“The larger question obviously is ‘when?’ and ‘under what conditions?’" he said. "But I have zero doubt … that Pennsylvania ultimately will have marriage equality.”
Sims said there are about five active cases against the state’s marriage laws. One of them was before a judge in Harrisburg as he was speaking. Simms hopes that one of those cases opens the door for marriage equality faster than the legislative process.
Sims also spoke about discrimination. He said 33 municipalities in Pennsylvania currently have LGBT anti-discrimination laws, covering about 30 percent of the state, but that’s not enough.
“I am a sitting state legislator and, when I leave my district, when I leave Philadelphia and go out to a number of places in this state, I can literally be kicked out of the hotel that I’m staying at,” Sims said.
Pittsburgh is one of the municipalities with anti-discrimination laws on the books protecting the LGBT community.
Sims said, in 70 percent of the state, people can be denied housing, fired from jobs or kicked out of businesses because of their sexual orientation.
He said, once same-sex marriage is enacted, life without anti-discrimination laws would be tough for Pennsylvania’s LGBT community.
“Imagine that scenario where someone spends their weekend, they marry the person that they’ve loved, they’ve been with for 10 years, they come into work that next day and they put up their wedding photo on their desk and they’re called in by management and they’re fired because of it.”
Federal law currently prohibits discrimination based on “marriage status” but being married would make it harder for LGBT couples to hide their orientation in unfriendly communities, according to Sims.