Gabriel Arana is a senior editor at The American Prospect. His articles on gay rights, immigration, and media have appeared in publications including The Nation, Salon, The Advocate, and The Daily Beast. To contact him, visit his website.
Earlier this week, top advocates of immigration reform met at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Democrat Network (NDN), a center-left think tank, to discuss the prospects of getting a bill through Congress by year's end. "The fundamentals are stronger than at any time during the last ten years," Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, told the audience. "[Immigration reform] is a plane on the runway ready to take off." Skeptics might counter that the jet has been sitting on the tarmac for months. In early June, House Speaker John Boehner said immigration reform was set to see the president’s desk by the end of the summer. The White House said the same thing. The Senate passed an omnibus bill in July, but August recess came and went without legislation getting through the House. Now, with the looming budget battle soaking up the Beltway’s oxygen, it seems House Republicans intend to slow-walk the bill to death.
House Republicans' latest excuse for not passing immigration reform—that the congressional calendar is too stuffed with shutdowns and Syria dilemmas—is pretty silly. First, the debt ceiling hasn’t dropped into the fall session unceremoniously from the sky—this is an annual responsibility they knew would return since the last hellish time they raised our borrowing limit. Second, there’s absolutely nothing stopping the House from passing immigration reform ASAP. In a single day, Republican legislators could bring the Senate immigration bill for a floor vote in the House, where conventional wisdom says it has the votes to pass. "This is no longer a debate about policy. We've had ten years of debate," says Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Every element of the policy discussion has been held and held repeatedly."
John Shore and his wife Catherine had been attending the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego for six years when they were nominated to serve as deacons. But before they could be ordained, they were asked to sign a document agreeing that no person in a same-sex relationship should hold any position of authority within the church, which is one of the city’s oldest. It was 1990. The couple had never heard the pastor or any of his fellow church-goers talk about homosexuality.
"At first I thought she was kidding," John says. "I said something to the effect of, 'Wouldn't it be funny if there really were a document like that?'" John and his wife refused to sign. A few days later, stacks of an article the pastor had written calling acceptance of homosexuality a heresy were stacked at the church's entrances. "That's how we learned there was a whole world of Christians out there that doesn't condone homosexuality," he says.
In all the fact-checking I've ever done, I never called up a source and asked, "Just making sure: You're a guy/girl, right?" Nor have I asked to see their genitals, the results of a chromosome test, or their medical records. If the interview was over the phone, I infer from the name and the sound of the person's voice. In the few instances that hasn't been enough, I've turned to Google to see if they have an official headshot that'll provide more clues, or a company bio that settles the matter. In person, you have additional data—the choice of clothes, mannerisms we've come to read as "feminine" or "masculine." In other words, reporters do what everyone else does, and it turns out to be a very un-journalistic thing to do: We go by what we see, take a guess, and assume it's right.
Since he beat longtime incumbent Babette Josephs in the race to represent Philadelphia’s Center City, Brian Sims has made a name for himself as a strong supporter of LGBT rights. As one of the first openly gay representatives in the state—shortly after he was elected to office, Republican Mike Fleck also came out—he has introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage as well as an employment nondiscrimination bill protecting LGBT workers in the state. But Sims is also a strong progressive across the board: He’s voted against privatizing the state’s liquor industry, which he says would kill “good union jobs”; spoken against Republican efforts to restrict access to abortion; and fiercely criticized current Governor Tom Corbett’s massive cuts to education spending.
He most recently made headlines after a scuffle on the Pennsylvania state House floor in which he was blocked from speaking about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, which a Republican colleague said would violate “God’s law.” The Prospect recently sat down with Sims to talk about where things are headed in Pennsylvania.