When Will Sylianteng is (hopefully) elected to be the Representative of Pensylvania’s 151st Ditrict of the state House this November he will represent several voices that are needed in the House: Democrats, Asian-Americans, and allies to the LGBT community. He is running for a seat that was held by Democrat as recently as 2010. After the dismal midterm elections of that year, it is time to turn the seat back to blue with a Representative who will work hard for our equality.
Pennsylvania will finally swear in (at least) one openly gay state Rep on January 1st, ending our dubious distinction as the second largest state with zero out LGBT legislators. This lack is reflected in our lack of LGBT rights. Every state which borders PA, save for Ohio and West Virginia, have both some form of statewide LGBT civil rights protections and same sex relationship recognition recognition. Pennsylvania has neither. Statewide, LGBT people have exactly ZERO civil rights. Sylianteng not only fully supports full LGBT legal equality, but couches his understanding of LGBT issues in his own experience as a minority in the America.
Born only a decade after the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving vs. Virginia invalidated any state law banning interracial marriage, Sylianteng finds the issue of marriage equality to be deeply personal. Before that decision, Virginians of African, Filipino, and/or Chinese heritage could not marry Caucasian Virginians. He says “I happen to be half Filipino, half Chinese. I’m the double whammy in the Virginia Commonwealth [law]; neither side of me could marry a Caucasian. I realize that at some point in time it was more than Filipinos, more than African Americans, and more than Chinese Americans that stood up to allow a marriage like mine to exist. I believe strongly in paying it forward. Really, it’s my duty. I guarantee that people fought and probably died for my right to marry my wife. Who am I or who is anybody to sit down and be OK with that same denial and for the same reasons [of marriage equality.] That’s why it was personal for me, and that’s why it was important for me to seek Equality PA’s endorsement. “
Endorsed by statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Pennsylvania, Will is a solidly progressive Democrat that will appeal to voters concerned about a wide range of issues, including education, infrastructure, and clean air and water. In addition to Equality PA, he has also racked up a considerable number of endorsements, including Ceasefire PA and Conservations Voters of PA, as well as prestigious, national endorsements from Democracy for America and Progressive Majority. The final two organiations especially endorse not just based on values, but viability, which marks Will’s race as a particularly strong investment for those giving time and money to help elect him.
Why should LGBT and progressive Americans outside of PA care about this race? It’s simple. For decades, Republicans, almost all of whom oppose our basic civil rights, have been highly effective at building leaders up from the local level, winning races on school boards, city councils, and in state houses. If we want effective Democratic leadership as Attorney Generals, governors, and Congresspersons tomorrow, then today must be the day that we give our time and money to outstanding Democratic leaders at the local level. Will Sylianteng is exactly that kind of leader.
Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director Ted Martin stated “Moving Pennsylvania forward isn’t easy, but it starts when committed individuals with a passion for fairness take the enormous step to run for office and campaign in a way that shows they aren’t afraid to talk forthrightly and with common sense about the right things to do. Will is one of those people, and Equality PA knows we can count on him to be honest, to be tough, and to be there for us.” EQPA Board Presient Adrian Shanker adds “Will is the perfect example of who we need in Harrisburg. He understands the law, wants to use the law to protect all people and the environment, and believes firmly in the civil rights of all people. As a man of color in an interracial marriage, Will has not shied away from discussing his views about legal discrimination. Will Sylianteng will make an excellent State Representative.”
Those outside the area can donate online, while locals can meet Will this Thursday in Philadelphia, and volunteer to help his campaign between now and election day. He may not represent my district, but Will Sylianteng represent my interests as a progressive, LGBT Pennsylvanian and American. I have supported his campaign by donating, and I urge readers to do the same.
J. Rudy Flesher, blogs here when not fulfilling his duties as the Field Manager for Philly4Philly, a grassroots fundraising initiative to fund non-profits meeting the basic needs of Philadelphians. He is a Philadelphia based performing artist, author, and actor, holds a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey, and is an award-winning feminist scholar. He also sits on the boards of the William Way LGBT Community Center, Young Involved Philadelphia, and The Spruce Foundation.
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