I've waited awhile to let it all sink in, but I think I'm ready to take a look at the fallout from the elections from the Western PA. Well, at least from my Western PA view.
You've read about the tremendous victories - the four wins on marriage equality, the 120+ electoral victories among the Victory Fund endorsed candidates and the many first - Tammy Baldwin as the first openly lesbian elected to the Senate, a bisexual Congresswoman, and the election of MANY openly gay folks on the state level. It's all good.
But ... in Western PA, it was a mixed bag. Yes, Bob Casey hung onto his Senate seat, but quasi-Democrat Mark Critz was defeated by openly tea-bag loving Keith Rothfus in a district that was allegedly gerrymandered to neatly sever the Democrats who voted John Murtha in for years. We gained a seat in the PA Senate (Matt Smith - D) and elected Dems to be Attorney General and Auditor General - welcome news.
We also elected the first openly gay man to the PA General Assembly - soon to be State Representative Brian Sims of Eastern PA. But that's also a mixed bag.
It is not a personal critique of Mr. Sims who may prove to be an astute, effective member of the Assembly. It is more a critique of the circumstances under which he became the endorsed candidate. Sims defeated long-time State Rep Babette Josephs in the primary.
Hence the mixed bag - women of Western Pennsylvania already vastly underrepresented in Harrisburg lost a strong ally with a power base and an established ability to get things done in the Assembly. And I have concerns that the natural learning curve Sims faces will not be quick enough to protect us from most vile man in Pennsylvania (allegedly) - State Rep Daryl Metcalfe whose run ins with Josephs were the stuff of legends (amongst political junkies at least.)
Metcalfe's influence and power are frightening. He's trying to redistrict the PA House to move power from the City of Erie to the suburbs in Butler County - his base. Butler has been the loci of everything from the PA Family Association annual dinner to the intense media frenzy around Chick-fil-A - in spite of the distance from Pgh. Metcalfe is also pushing legislation to reign in gun control restrictions passed in Philly and Pittsburgh that are tighter than the states regs. He's working on voter ID and immigration and - oh, yes - his "defense of marriage protection" amendment.
Remember - PA has no statewide protections with the sole exception of a court decision protecting second parent adoption. We can be fired and denied services because we are gay. We can be victimized by hate crimes with very tenuous recourse. The list goes on and on. And worst of all - many LGBTQ folks do not realize this is the case. The education of the LGBTQ community on the state of PA should be foremost in our minds so we can rally to push back on those who want to put even more barriers to our equality.
So I'm ambivalent about the election of Sims. It is a landmark for sure, but was it in the overall best interests of Pennsylvania's LGBTQ community?
That's yet to be determined. I hope ...
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