While debating a land-use bill at a state government committee meeting on Tuesday night, Pennsylvania state Rep. Matt Bradford laid his hand — for just a moment — on the left forearm of the colleague sitting next to him.
That colleague was conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who interrupted Bradford mid-sentence with a personal bit of information.
“Look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don't like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time,” Metcalfe told Bradford, who then began laughing.
Several other members of the committee, which Metcalfe chairs, giggled and smirked.
“Keep your hands to yourself,” said Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler County. “If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it.
In the wake of Metcalfe's comments, an openly gay member on the committee and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party have called for Metcalfe's resignation. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf urged Republican House leaders to consider removing Metcalfe as chairman of the committee, which in part oversees civil rights legislation, in light of his "offensive and discriminatory" statements.
Metcalfe is a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage who has said he does not believe in civil-rights protections based on sexual orientation.
Bradford, a Democrat, appeared to be stunned by his colleague's comments on Tuesday.
“Okay, chairman, chairman,” he told Metcalfe during the meeting, grinning as committee members laughed. One member appeared to conceal her face from the camera with her hand.
“We're officially off the rails,” Bradford said. “My intent was just to beg for your permission for about 30 seconds.”
“Then beg, don't touch,” responded Metcalfe, who is serving his 10th term in office. Bradford continued to laugh.
“I don't know where we go from here, really,” said Bradford, who is married with four children, according to his online biography.
Neither Bradford nor Metcalfe could be reached for comment.
Wolf said in a statement on Twitter that Metcalfe's comments were “part of a disturbing pattern of behavior.”
Rep. Metcalfe’s comments yesterday were offensive & discriminatory. Unfortunately, this is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior. I urge House leadership to re-examine whether it is appropriate for him to continue controlling a committee that oversees civil rights legislation. https://t.co/x0gnXoTGag
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) December 6, 2017
Metcalfe responded Wednesday to the governor's comments and said they were a “partisan attack” made partly in response to Metcalfe's criticisms of him, according to Philly.com. Wolf and Metcalfe differ on social issues — particularly those involving protections based on sexual orientation.
“I think it should be offensive to everyone in this state, and they should really question whether or not this governor has any principles at all that he would stand on the side of a perpetrator,” he said.
Metcalfe told Philly.com that he does not think Republican House leaders will remove him his position as committee chairman. As for the Democratic Party's call for his resignation, Metcalfe said that it wasn't the first time the party asked him to step down and that he has no intention of doing so now.
“To try and label people as being sexist, homophobic, or racist, or whatever they want to use as their label … the fact is the majority of men in our culture will not want a man who they don’t know touching them,” Metcalfe told Philly.com.
Pennsylvania's first openly gay legislator, Rep. Brian Sims, sits on the state government committee and turned to Facebook to express his outrage toward Metcalfe, whom he called the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus's “head bigot.”
“PA State Representative Daryl Metcalfe disrupted a State Government Committee meeting this morning — about a land use bill! — to loudly declare his heterosexuality!” wrote Sims, a Democrat. “You can't make this stuff up! The most homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, xenophobic member of our government is using legislative time, and tax payer dollars, to interrupt a meeting to announce his sexual orientation.”
Brandon Cwalina, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, in a statement Tuesday said that Metcalfe was a "walking, talking embarrassment to Pennsylvanians and doesn’t deserve the honor of serving in public office.”
In an interview with TribLive, Bradford said Metcalfe's comments were “unpleasant and awkward and appalling.”
“In this day and age, that's really inappropriate,” he said.
When asked by TribLive if he meant to suggest that Bradford is gay, Metcalfe said he did not know.
“I don't know what [Bradford's sexuality] is,” he said. “But I know from him touching me all the time that he indicates he likes to touch men.”
When informed of Metcalfe's response, Bradford told TribLive he often tries to calm Metcalfe down during contentious committee meetings and smooth disagreements between Metcalfe and other members.
“I speak with my hands,” Bradford said. “I've tried to calm him down.”
Metcalfe has repeatedly spoken out against same-sex marriage. In 2013, he invoked a House rule to stop Sims from speaking about the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage rulings.
“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.
He also led the charge to impeach then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who he said created a “constitutional crisis” by refusing to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
When the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages across the country in 2015, Metcalfe said the justices displayed “judicial tyranny,” according to PennLive.
“It shows what tyrants they are when they think that they can place themselves above God's law, above natural law, and above the will of the American people as we've seen it expressed in state after state after state,” Metcalfe said.