Updated Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 at 9:00 p.m.
The leader of West Virginia Republican party has denounced derogatory comments a state delegate made against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer communities. That response comes as Democrats have called for the lawmaker’s resignation and have continued to push for added protected classes in the state’s Human Rights Act.
In a statement, state GOP chairwoman Melody Potter said that Mercer County Delegate Eric Porterfield’s comments were “hateful, hurtful, and do not reflect the values of our country, our state, and the Republican Party.”
Porterfield said last week he thinks LGBTQ groups are “socialists” and ”discriminatory bigots.” In an interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he referred to some groups in the LGBTQ communities as “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” He also called the gay community a “terrorist group.”
Porterfield said he received threats after earlier remarks in a committee meeting in support of an amendment that would overrule local ordinances which protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. The amendment failed.
Following Monday’s floor session, Porterfield met privately with House Speaker Roger Hanshaw.
Asked whether he was removed from any committee assignments, Porterfield declined to answer. He currently sits on the Banking & Insurance, Energy, Government Organization and Industry & Labor committees.
Hanshaw has not yet commented on the matter beyond stating he hopes no one would make such derogatory remarks.
House Majority Leader Amy Summers said Monday that the state GOP’s position on the matter represents the same as her chamber’s caucus.
Since Porterfield’s initial comments, House Democrats have tried twice, but failed, to fast track House Bill 2733. The measure would add gender and sexual orientation to the state’s Human Rights Act.
Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, attempted Thursdayto discharge the bill from committee and bring it to the floor. That motion was tabled on a 58-40 vote along party lines.
During Monday’s House floor session, Amanda Estep-Burton, D-Kanawha, moved to bring House Bill 2733 from the table in another attempt to push the bill towards a vote. Her motion to bring the bill from the table Monday also failed along party lines — this time on a 40-57 vote.
Del. Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, also gave remarks on the floor regarding the controversy over Porterfield and the inflammatory statements.
“I will tell my fellow members of the LGBT community that you are loved. You are loved, you’re respected you matter and I stand with you in solidarity,” Thompson said.
Thompson also made reference to an interview Porterfield gave to WVVA over the weekend. A reporter from the Bluefield television station asked the embattled delegate how he would respond if his either or both of his two children were gay or lesbian.
“Well, I’ll address my daughter first. I would take her for a pedicure, take her to get her nails done and see if she could swim. If it was my son, I would probably take him hunting. I would take him fishing and I’d see if he could swim,” Porterfield told WVVA.
Asked what he meant, Porterfield failed to elaborate beyond stating he “would just want to make sure they could swim.”
Thompson specifically addressed that interview on the House floor.
“In case anyone was interested, my caring, loving and supportive parents never threw me into any body of water. But they did teach me how to swim,” Thompson said.
The West Virginia Democratic Party called for Porterfield’s resignation as early as Friday.