This week, as Facebook turned red with LGBT people and our allies supporting civil full marriage equality, it seems like Democratic Senators have been falling over themselves to finally come out in favor of marriage equality. Senators Begich (AK), Hagan (NC), McCaskill (MO) Rockefeller (WV), Tester (MT), Warner (VA) all announced their support this week. They not only spoke for justice and equality, but, considering that four of the six states from which they hail supported Romney in the 2012 Presidential election, they showed the bravery of doing the right thing, even if it was not wholly popular.
My Democratic Senator in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, still lacks either the moral fortitude, the political will, or both to do the right thing. Fortunately, the pressure is on for him to step up. Equality Pennsylvania has been encouraging LGBT and allied citizens across the state to call and email the Senator. And today, Representative Brian Sims of PA’s 182 district, who is the first legislator elected in our state as an openly gay man, wrote an open letter to Senator Casey urging him to come out on the right side of history. First reported by G Philly, I urge you to read the full letter below:
Good morning Senator Casey,
As you know, this week saw the two most important cases in LGBT civil rights history argued before the Supreme Court. These cases, even if not decided fully in favor of LGBT civil rights are still going to be the foundation for all equality legislation and litigation to follow, which will ultimately lead to full LGBT equality in the next decade. Today is the morning after.
I am writing to you this morning not as a friend, not as a constituent, nor as a former volunteer. While I am all of these things, I am also a State Representative in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and one whose rights as an openly gay man are being directly impacted by your silence, especially in the face of so much support from your colleagues.
Like countless Americans and millions of Pennsylvanians, I watched these last two days as my fundamental rights as an LGBT American have been at the front and center of the national debate. In fact, that’s exactly where we want them to be; in the public eye, at kitchen tables, at coffee counters, and in conference rooms from Scranton to Santa Fe.
The next few months before the decisions are announced mark the most critical time in LGBT civil rights history. These cases are our Dred Scott, ourLoving v. Virginia, perhaps even our Brown v. Board of Education. To the delight of so many, the people of this great nation are standing up with voices stentorian to proclaim their support for equality in record numbers.
Senator Casey, seven years ago I joined hundreds of thousands of LGBT Pennsylvanians in support of your candidacy in an effort to remove Senator Rick Santorum, one of the most anti-LGBT legislators in modern history, from public office. We worked tirelessly and we celebrated your victory, even as many of us struggled to reconcile our support for you with our fundamental beliefs in women’s reproductive rights, beliefs which you do not share.
We have believed since you were sworn in that when the time was right, when it really mattered, you would be there for equality. The time is right and we need you to be here.
But your voice is silent. And I am angry.
Senator, I know you. I know how we have interacted and I know that you have respect for me as a gay man. More importantly, I know that LGBT people surround you in virtually every area of your life, personal and professional. You have never had a shortage of interaction with the LGBT community and that is what makes it so confusing that you have not made up your mind on equality. Or have you?
Several weeks ago your colleague, Senator Portman, very eloquently announced his support for marriage equality after coming to terms with his gay son. The Senator actually said that he’d never given the issue much thought before being confronted with it at his kitchen table. Once confronted, he came to the conclusion that LGBT people like his son deserve to have their rights recognized. To be clear, Senator Portman is a national figure in a political party that has never supported LGBT civil rights; nor had he ever done so personally. Yet with those political obstacles, and that personal history, he was still able to come to the conclusion that equality was morally and politically necessary.
Even some of the most conservative members of the Republican Party are now more supportive of equality than you, based solely on their personal experiences with just a single LGBT family member. For lesser men than you Senator, with far less experience with LGBT Americans, it took only one gay person to make them speak out against the conventions of their parties and their faiths.
I know that you are a man of deep faith and that your faith guides many of your life’s decisions. I also know that faith itself evolves. Faith has been used by the opponents of virtually every civil rights battle in our history to impede progress and evade equality. Yet as each battle ended, we did not look back and say that the faith was wrong, just perhaps the faithful. Today, Catholic Americans support LGBT equality at greater levels than even the U.S. population as a whole.
Senator, the same people who voted for me, voted for you, and I am so excited to report that a vast majority of them now support LGBT equality. So too do a majority of your Democratic colleagues. In fact, as of this morning you are one of only nine Democrats in the Senate who does not support marriage equality!
You have had more opportunities, and come from more supportive communities than so many others who have voiced their support in these critical weeks. History, as well as your constituents, is demanding that you speak now on this issue and I hope that your conscience compels you to rise to the occasion.
Please, Senator, don’t wait any longer to take a stand. Show and voice your support for full equality for LGBT Americans today.
Rep. Brian Sims
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
182nd Legislative District
It remains to be seen whether Senator Casey will be moved by Sims’ words, as well as the many calls and emails pouring into his office. In the interim, I am reminded again the importance of working to elect openly LGBT officials. Before January 1st of this year, Senator Casey could never have received a letter from an openly LGBT official, as Sims was the first elected as such in PA history.
I am proud to call Representative Sims a friend, and to have been a part of the team that carried him to his historic victory. Though he will modestly deny it, he is a true American hero in every sense of the word, always redirecting the spotlight shone on him to those most sorely lacking equality and justice. Today, he works not just for his constituents in Philadelphia, as he does tirelessly every day, but for same sex couples across our great nation. Because of Sims’ letter, because of the incredible groundswell across America for our equality, and because compassion and justice are on are side, I am reminded of Harvey Milk telling us “you gotta give ‘em hope.” And friends, today my heart is filled with hope for LGBT equality.
Image, top, by Chris Crisman
J. Rudy Flesher blogs here when not fulfilling his duties as the Community Curator for Here’s My Chance, a creative agency for social impact. 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, and Young Involved Philadelphia, and is Co-President of The Spruce Foundation.
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