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Rep. Sims: LGBT civil rights is ‘not just a liberal issue’

Calling it a "major step in the right direction" for the LGBT community, State Rep. Brian Sims applauded the governor today for siding with his anti-discrimination bill, which has been floundering in committee for nearly three years.

Yesterday, Gov. Tom Corbett publicly backed H.B. 300 and S.B. 300, two pieces of legislation that would put an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

"I think one of the things we're starting to realize … is that support for LGBT civil rights is clearly not just a liberal issue," said Sims, a co-sponsor of the bill, who was joined by Councilman Jim Kenney in City Hall today.

"Support for LGBT issues is not mutually exclusive from being a conservative Republican, and I think that's really, really important for the advancement of these issues in the Pennsylvania House. This bill has been around for a long time."

The legislation would amend the 1955 Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to allow for special protections for members of the LGBT community, where there currently are none. In an interview with the Inquirer yesterday, Corbett said he thought such safeguards were already covered under federal law.

"The time has well come and gone for us to be fair to all people, regardless of who they are or how they live," said Kenney.

"I know people who have moved into New Jersey so they can get married there, so why can't we get to this point?"

Murmurs have surfaced in several online platforms that Corbett is simply posturing as a means of rescuing a failing reelection campaign, but even the so-called "dean" of gay journalism doesn't think so.

"This is not something that governor has come to overnight. Anybody who thinks it's political should realize that it might mean he's challenging his own party," said Mark Segal, publisher of The Philadelphia Gay News and the first activist and lobbyist to stump for LGBT issues in Harrisburg, since 1972.

"When we met in the governor's residence in October, we discussed, at our meeting, one item – how do we pass non-discrimination? He was absolutely amazed that it was not done."

Sims said now the challenge is how to get other Republicans on board.