LGBT community members and allies this week spoke out against an anti-LGBT state representative’s in-session homophobic tirade.
On Tuesday, state Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery County) touched Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) briefly on the arm in what Bradford later described as a plea for more time to discuss a vote on a bill related to eminent domain and roads. Metcalfe, a longtime opponent of LGBT rights, responded with insinuations about Bradford’s sexual orientation and affirmations of his heterosexuality.
“I’m a heterosexual,” Metcalfe responded after Bradford touched his arm. “I have a wife. I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might, so stop touching me all the time. Keep your hands to yourself. If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle that might like it. I don’t.”
Bradford, who is married to a woman and has four kids, laughed off the comments.
“We are officially off the rails,” Bradford said at the meeting. “My intent was just to beg for your permission for about 30 seconds.”
Bradford told PGN that he was “disgusted and appalled” by Metcalfe’s remarks.
“Those comments are never acceptable and completely beyond the pale,” Bradford said.
Metcalfe did not respond to PGN’s requests for comment.
The incident happened during a meeting of the House State Government Committee, which Metcalfe chairs.
It is the same committee where the proposed Pennsylvania Fairness Act — which would ban discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations for individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression — has languished for years, with many pointing to Metcalfe as the holdout.
When Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) reintroduced the legislation earlier this year, he encouraged House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) to send the bill to a different committee so it could have a fair hearing; it was again referred to Metcalfe’s committee in June, and has not been voted on since.
Frankel and Turzai were not immediately available for comment.
Gov. Tom Wolf weighed in on the incident Wednesday on social media, calling the remarks “offensive and discriminatory.”
“Unfortunately, this is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior,” Wolf continued. “I urge House leadership to re-examine whether it is appropriate for him to continue controlling a committee that oversees civil-rights legislation.”
Rep. Brian Sims, the state’s first openly gay elected state representative, was in the room during Tuesday’s interaction and addressed it on Facebook.
“I sit every day in [s]ession and committee with this homophobe, sexist and racist and have to listen not just to his views on Christianity and government, but on my own civil rights,” Sims wrote. “More importantly, he’s been put in control of one of the most important committees in Pennsylvania government, the one that oversees most civil-rights legislation, by brand-new [g]ubernatorial candidate Speaker Mike Turzai!”
In 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, Sims sought to address the issue before legislators, including Metcalfe, silenced him.
“I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said and just open rebellion against God’s law,” Metcalfe told WHYY at the time.
Following this week’s committee meeting, several organizations spoke out against Metcalfe. Equality Pennsylvania Interim Executive Director John Dawe said it is “past time for Speaker Turzai to remove Daryl Metcalfe” from his position.
“His rant against Chairman Bradford is simply the latest in a long series of homophobic and xenophobic actions, including bottling up antidiscrimination legislation in committee, inviting white nationalists to testify and invoking a legislative rule to prevent State Rep. Brian Sims from speaking about marriage equality — yet now he openly declares his heterosexuality in a committee meeting,” Dawe said in a statement. “Metcalfe has turned his committee into an embarrassment and disgrace. It’s time for Speaker Turzai to act.”
Matthew Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, also called for Metcalfe’s removal.
“Speaker Turzai has a responsibility to ensure that the state House is accountable to Pennsylvanians of all colors, creeds and orientations. Chairman Metcalfe has failed on all counts,” Yarnell said in a statement. “Enough is enough, Speaker Turzai. Remove Chairman Metcalfe immediately.”