Gay-marriage ruling sparks a bitter fight in Pa. House

Pa. Sate Rep. Brian Sims of Philadelphia.
Pa. Sate Rep. Brian Sims of Philadelphia.
Posted: June 29, 2013

HARRISBURG - The U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on gay marriage have sparked a bitter dispute on the Pennsylvania House floor over the last two days.

On Wednesday, State Rep. Brian Sims (D., Phila.), who last fall became the first openly gay candidate to win a seat in the House, rose to praise the landmark decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, only to be silenced by other lawmakers' objections.

That was in keeping with rules for that part of the session, when members can rise to speak on almost any subject. Then, in an interview Thursday with WHYY FM, the legislature's most outspoken conservative, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), explained why he had objected.

Metcalfe said, "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."

Those remarks prompted Sims to rise again at the end of Thursday's session and ask House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) to reprimand Metcalfe for his comments.

"A few months ago, I put my hand on a Bible and swore allegiance to God. It was in no way against the law of any God," Sims said. "I can't call anyone a bigot, a homophobe, or racist. But language used against me does not live up to the standards of this body."

As Democrats cheered Sims, Smith said it was not parliamentary procedure for the speaker to reprimand someone for remarks made off the floor. He told Sims he could take the issue to the Ethics Committee, or seek a House resolution.

Sims vowed to pursue the matter - and also announced that he would cosponsor a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.


Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

This article includes information from the Associated Press.

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