State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe told a Democratic male colleague to stop touching his arm Tuesday during a House committee meeting because he’s heterosexual and then urged the Democrat to look to people in his own party if he wanted to touch men.
“I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife. I love my wife. I don’t like men, as you might,” Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, told Rep. Matthew Bradford, D-Montgomery County, during a State Government Committee meeting.
“But don’t — stop touching me all the time,” Metcalfe continued. “It’s like, keep your hands to yourself. Like if you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle that might like it. I don’t.”
Metcalfe, 55, made the comments during a meeting in which the committee was scheduled to vote on a bill related to eminent domain and roads. Bradford was discussing whether to table a bill or debate it further when he touched the arm of Metcalfe, who was seated beside him. Bradford said in the meeting that he touched Metcalfe’s arm as part of a plea for more time to discuss the legislation.
Metcalfe is the committee’s majority chairman. Bradford is its minority chairman.
“It was very unpleasant and awkward and appalling,” Bradford said in an interview after the meeting. “In this day and age, that’s really inappropriate.”
Metcalfe said in an interview that he intended to draw attention to unwanted touching from Bradford, who he said has touched his arm or shoulder often in meetings in recent months despite his telling Bradford to stop.
“We have someone who’s an elected leader and he continues to touch an elected leader when he’s been told to stop,” Metcalfe said.
When asked whether he was suggesting Bradford — who is married to the mother of his four children — is gay, Metcalfe responded, “I don’t know what his sexuality or his sexual behavior is. I don’t know what it is. But I know from him touching me all the time that he indicates he likes to touch men.”
When asked about Metcalfe’s claim, Bradford responded, “I’ll be honest, I often try to calm him down. I speak with my hands. I’ve tried to calm him down.”
Bradford said the committee meetings are often contentious and that he has often tried to quell disagreements between Metcalfe and other members.
Metcalfe, when asked about his comments regarding other Democrats, said the only openly gay member of the House is a Democrat sitting on the committee.
Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, who sits on the committee, is the first openly gay legislator in Pennsylvania.
When asked whether he intended the references to the sexuality of Bradford and other Democrats in a pejorative way, Metcalfe responded, “I said what I said. If he likes to touch other men, then find another man to touch because I’m not the man to be touching.”
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party quickly called for the resignation of Metcalfe, who is in his 10th term.
“For years Metcalfe has taken policy positions based on bigoted misconceptions and fear of minority groups and the LGBT community, but today he has gone beyond the pale,” party spokesman Brandon Cwalina said in a statement. “We are again calling on Daryl Metcalfe to resign and to apologize to all Pennsylvanians for his ridiculously bigoted behavior.”
Metcalfe has been outspoken in his belief that homosexuality is a sin and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
In 2013, Metcalfe used a procedural maneuver to prevent Sims from speaking on the House floor about the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“For me to allow (Sims) to say things that I believe are open rebellion against God are for me to participate in his open rebellion,” Metcalfe told The Associated Press at the time.
Also that year, Metcalfe was one of several Republican lawmakers to call for the impeachment of then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane because they said she was refusing to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage.
In 2015, Metcalfe spoke out against the Supreme Court ruling ensuring that same-sex marriages must be recognized across the United States.
“What the justices displayed today is judicial tyranny. The justices set themselves above God’s law, natural law and the will of the people across this country. … This is a government of ‘We the People,’ and we the people are not done with this fight,” Metcalfe said.
Bradford said he talked with House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, about Metcalfe’s comments. He believes that at least an apology is warranted.
A Turzai spokesman said he was not aware of the speaker getting involved.
“I wish some civility would reign,” Bradford said.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.