Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Human rights bill sparks dust up in House

It seemed like a feel-good piece of legislation that would sail through the state House.

Human rights bill sparks dust up in House


It seemed like a feel-good piece of legislation that would sail through the state House.

After all, who would object to recognizing International Human Rights Day and commemorating the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

That was the thinking of resolution sponsor Rep. Brian Sims (D., Phila.).

Not so. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler) took offense at the resolution and tried to block the vote.

After a brief floor scuffle (verbal), the resolution was voted and passed overwhelmingly 174-19.

Sims said he was heartened by the bipartisan support of most of his colleagues, but abandoned his plan to speak on the floor.

Here's what he said he would have said:

“On this day in 1948, guided by the leadership of the United States and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and in direct response to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany, the newly formed UN General Assembly gathered to introduce to the world to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps the greatest reflection of mankind's better angels ever recorded, and the most translated document in Human History.

“Today, on the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration, there is simply no question that the world is a fundamentally different place than it was on that day in Paris when mankind declared that 'recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.'"

Sims had just returned from a whirlwind tour of Japan as the guest of newly-appointed ambassador Caroline Kennedy where he spoke on human rights to a variety of groups. After the vote yesterday he said he had been excited to come home and introduce a resolution on the topic of human rights.

"This opposition reflects an ideology of isolationism and disregard for our role in the global community, and fails to recognize the leadership that the United States has shown for over a half century in advancing global human rights," Sims said.

Metcalfe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was not the first dust up between Sims, the legislature first openly-gay elected lawmaker, and Metcalfe, widely regarded as among the most conservative members of the General Assembly.

In June, saying it was a "rebellion against God's law," Metcalfe blocked Sims from speaking about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act on the House floor.








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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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