Openly gay Pa. Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was blocked from talking about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act Wednesday on the floor of the Pennsylvania House.
His comments to his colleagues were ended by a procedural maneuver.
In a part of the house session where members can speak on wide-ranging topics, Sims had just begun his remarks when he was shut down.
“I wasn’t planning on chastising anybody. I wasn’t planning on discussing how far we have to come in Pennsylvania or that we really have no civil rights in Pennsylvania,” Sims said. “It was really just going to limit my comments to how important the cases were.”
It takes just one legislator to end the impromptu remarks. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe was one of the House Republicans who objected.
“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,” said Metcalfe, R-Butler.
Two more Democratic legislators got up to speak in support of Sims. Neither was allowed to proceed.
The objectors to a speaker are sometimes recorded in the official record, confirmed Parliamentarian Clancy Myer. In this case, the House speaker declined Democrats’ explicit request to name the person who had objected.
Reached by phone, Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, also refused to confirm who had blocked Sims from speaking. Miskin said he believed objectors were never recorded. He downplayed the entire incident, saying that disagreements happen in the House all the time.
“Honestly, on the floor, it did not seem like it was that big of a deal. A lot of members went up and spoke with Representative Sims afterwards,” Miskin pointed out. “There was a lot of discourse. Between both sides of the aisle.”
Sims, one of two openly gay members of the house, said that Republicans approached him afterward to apologize. Sims said that he will remember the moment, not for being silenced, but for the support offered from his colleagues in the Legislature.