By James H. English
If you aren’t familiar with Brian Sims, a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, he’s a history maker. The first and so far only NCAA football captain to come out of the closet while active, he’s also the first openly gay representative ever elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Don’t be fooled; he may have a career in politics, but by no means is he a typical politician in it for the power. Sims (who’d prefer you call him Brian) is in the game because he wants to make the world a better place to live for everyone, a desire that has guided his professional development from its inception.
In office less than a year, Sims’ reputation as a human rights champion caught the eye of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and earned him a coveted invite not only to attend her first official trip in December 2013, but also to be a headlined speaker. Discussing racial justice, the rights of the disabled, equality for women, and LGBT issues, Sims spent four days touring Japan, empowering activists, politicians, and students with the same intensity that garnered him board positions with groups as diverse as Ben Cohen’s Stand-Up Foundation and The Center for Progressive Leadership. Yet speaking to him about his experience in Japan, Sims sounds mystified that Ambassador Kennedy even knew who he was.
“I’m not sure how I got on the radar,” he says with a laugh, “but they wanted to bring advocates from Japan and the United States together at all levels. They wanted someone visible… apparently I was on the short-list for a couple of months before they asked.”