On Tuesday night, as Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic nominee for president, PA Rep. Brian Sims twirled around on the 50th story of Three Logan Square with Philly drag icon Martha Graham Cracker. The occasion was Equality PA’s DNC fête, held near the top of one of Center City’s tallest buildings and packed to the gills with political notables.
In addition to Sims, the physician general of Pennsylvania, Dr. Rachel Levine, attended, as did the Democratic minority leader in the PA House, Rep. Frank Dermody of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. Rep. Dan B. Frankel of Allegheny County, the Democratic Caucus Chairman, was also in attendance.
In an animated speech to the crowd, Sims emphasized how far Pennsylvania has to go when it comes to LGBTQ rights. But he took the presence of the commonwealth's Democratic legislative leaders as a hopeful sign.
“I can’t explain to you how important that [their presence] is,” Sims told the crowd. “I have colleagues every single day who pretend that they can’t support us as an LGBTQ community because they don’t understand us. They vote on pensions every day and I can guarantee you that they don’t understand pensions.”
Sims also emphasized the importance of reaching out to Republicans, who will control the state legislature for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t care how conservative you are, I don’t care how religious you are, I don’t care how crazy old and white and cis you are,” said Sims. “I’m a firm believer that the answer to equality is a bipartisan solution. Today, I want to beg every one of you here in PA to understand that. We don’t win equality by being raging ideologues.”
After the speech, attendees quaffed cocktails and nibbled delicacies as Martha Graham Cracker continued to perform. Sims expressed excitement about how the DNC has unfolded thus far, calling it the most inclusive convention in American history, as measured by the number of out delegates, and the Democratic platform the most inclusive in American history. He also made sure to lavish praise on Bernie Sanders.
“I'm so impressed by Bernie Sanders’ speech,” he said. “It's easy to see why his messages were so appealing to so many people. And he made the national party more like what I'd like it to look like: much more progressive.”
Dr. Rachel Levine – whom Sims deemed “a badass” – was far more subdued in her remarks. She is the highest ranking trans person to hold a position in a Pennsylvania gubernatorial administration. She plays a key role in Gov. Tom Wolf’s fight against the state's opioid epidemic. After emphasizing repeatedly that she was attending the Equality PA event as a private citizen, not in her official capacity, she launched into an epic discourse on the roots of the opioid crisis.
Like Sims, she argued that the issue was one that could appeal to both Democrats and Republicans even during this period of peak polarization.
“Heroin is everywhere now, not just congregated in certain areas of the inner city,” Levine emphasized. “It’s urban, its suburban, its rural. That heightens awareness of it. So Gov.Wolf will have a special session of the legislature to address this issue in September. This is one where Democrats and Republicans can come together.”