Harrisburg ayatollah: Rep. Metcalfe stifles speech in the name of faith

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While the Legislature's effort to pass a budget was the main news in Pennsylvania last week, a disturbing note was struck in the Capitol on a matter out of Washington that made headlines -- the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that had denied federal benefits for gay couples.

Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia who is gay, wanted to make remarks on the state House floor about the significance of the decision. But under the House's "unanimous consent" rules, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, and at least one other House member objected, denying Mr. Sims the opportunity to speak on the floor.

The next day Mr. Metcalfe explained his action on Philadelphia radio station WHYY-FM, revealing that he wasn't just innocently exercising a right but doing it for a sinister, undemocratic reason.

"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," Mr. Metcalfe said.

Daryl Metcalfe's middle name should be controversy -- he makes a living on playing the bully and trying to make life more difficult for marginalized people. But this injection of religion as an excuse to silence a fellow lawmaker crossed a line. It is the sort of thing that might be expected in Iran.

Of course, Mr. Metcalfe is entitled to his religious views, which are explicitly guaranteed by the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. But fair play in an elected legislative body demands that he not use his views to deny others the chance to speak.

A day before the Fourth of July, what is striking about this episode is how un-American it is. Mr. Metcalfe personifies Old World bigotry, not the pluralism of the New World where religious tests are supposed to be alien to the political culture.

Mr. Sims wants him to be censured by the House. The ayatollah from Cranberry should be rebuked, but adults in the Republican fold should also tell him how he is harming the party's brand with his hateful intolerance.

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