A member of the West Virginia House of Delegates is facing bipartisan criticism for a string of anti-LGBT statements, but the Republican lawmaker doesn’t appear to be backing down.
Delegate Eric Porterfield, who represents West Virginia’s 27th district, has a history of anti-LGBT stances. But things came to a head last week during a House meeting over a proposed amendment to an anti-LGBT-discrimination bill.
During the February 6 meeting Porterfield called the bill, which would include LGBT people as a protected class under the state’s Human Rights Act, “bigoted,” “intolerant” and “discriminatory.”
“The LGBT is the most socialist group in this country,” he continued, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “They do not protect gays. There are many gays they persecute if they do not line up with their social ideology.”
Porterfield has previously framed pushes for LGBT protections as a violation of free speech.
Reaction to his comments was swift. On Thursday, House Democrats took turns condemning Porterfield for his comments. On Friday, the West Virginia Democratic Party issued a statement calling for Porterfield to resign.
“West Virginia has no room for someone who expresses such hate,” WVDP Chairwoman Belina Biafore wrote.
But Porterfield took the opportunity to double down on his statements. On Friday morning, he called the offices of the Gazette-Mail, which had published an article on the Democratic backlash to his statements.
In the phone call, the news outlet reported, Porterfield called his critics “brutal monsters” and called the LGBT community a “terrorist group.” He also compared them to the KKK.
“The LGBTQ is a modern-day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods, with their antics of hate,” he reportedly said.
Porterfield’s office has not responded to CNN’s calls and e-mails requesting comment.
A few days later, the lawmaker continued his line of commentary. During an interview with local TV station WVVA, Porterfield, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, gave an odd answer when asked what he would do if he had a son or daughter who was gay.
“Well, I will address my daughter first. I would take her for a pedicure, I’d take her to get her nails done, and see if she could swim,” Porterfield said while smiling. “If it was my son, I would probably take him hunting, I would take him fishing, then I’d see if he could swim.”
“I just want to make sure they could swim,” he said when asked to clarify his comments.
Several of West Virginia’s Republican leaders have criticized his statements, and on Monday, the West Virginia GOP officially denounced Porterfield’s words.
“These comments are unacceptable and we denounce them,” West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter said in a statement. “They have no place in America.”
Porterfield took office last month, succeeding retiring Republican delegate Marty Gearheart. The 44-year-old is a Baptist missionary and has been blind since losing his vision in an altercation in 2006.
During his campaign, Porterfield vociferously criticized the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, a bill that failed to pass the state legislature in 2018 despite bipartisan support. Porterfield said the bill, which would have banned conversion therapy for LGBT minors, was a violation of free speech and called its supporters “bigoted and discriminatory.”