CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- West Virginia’s Republican Party has denounced comments a state delegate made about gay people over the course of last week.
“In recent days, Delegate Eric Porterfield has made comments that are hateful, hurtful, and do not reflect the values of our country, our state, and the Republican Party,” party Chairwoman Melody Potter stated.
“These comments are unacceptable and we denounce them. They have no place in America.”
Porterfield, a first-term Republican delegate from Mercer County, made comments in a committee meeting that led to a series of rebukes by Democrats in a floor session late last week.
The delegate then reached out to the Charleston Gazette-Mail in response.
In that interview, he called the gay community a “terrorist group.”
“The LGBTQ is a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods with their antics of hate,” Porterfield said in an interview Friday morning.
The state Republican Party said Porterfield’s remarks were inappropriate.
“We may disagree on policy, politics, and the direction of our state, but we can disagree civilly and respectfully because intolerant and hateful views hold us back, divide us, and hurt our state,” Potter stated.
She also said, “As West Virginians, we are taught to respect one another, love our neighbors, and when we disagree to seek understanding of our fellow Mountaineers.”
Porterfield, a Princeton resident who lost his eyesight, is the founder of “Blind Faith Ministries.” Representing a three-delegate district, he came in third in last spring’s primary by eight votes. He and the other two Republicans, incumbents John Shott and Joe Ellington, then were elected.
Controversy started boiling last Wednesday during a meeting of the House Government Organization Committee.
The committee was discussing a bill meant to deal with municipal annexation by minor boundary adjustment.
An amendment would have addressed “regulations and requirements adding protected classes not stipulated in state code.”
Delegates asked whether the amendment was meant to stop anti-discrimination ordinances.
West Virginia cities such as Martinsburg, Beckley, Fairmont, Wheeling and Morgantown have passed non-discrimination ordinances that address sexual orientation. Those go beyond what’s in state law.
In committee, Porterfield gave long and impassioned remarks in favor of the amendment.
“I wanted to say it was one of the most divisive issues I ever saw in Beckley, and I watched people’s rights be trampled over consistently to push a certain behavior,” Porterfield said.
“It is true that to not pass this amendment would be discriminating against people who have either religious convictions or who don’t want to run their business the way a socialist-left agenda wants us to run it.”
He also called Fairmont’s ordinance “a travesty.” Porterfield said local nondiscrimination ordinances run contrary to the First Amendment. He then called those who advocate for LGBTQ rights “the most socialist group in this country.”
Porterfield referenced Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right public speaker who is gay. West Virginia University allowed Yiannopoulos to speak there in 2016, but issued a statement countering his message. Other colleges have banned him from speaking.
“This is the name of his tour. This was not what I named his tour. But he was on what he referred to as ‘The Dangerous F…… Tour,’ and the LGBT stormed that building and did $200,000 worth of damage because he didn’t line up with their ideology,” Porterfield said in committee, using a pejorative term.
Some on the committee, particularly Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, spoke out against Porterfield’s remarks.
The concerns flared back up on the House floor on Thursday.
“I rise because it seems like we have a crisis of character in this chamber,” said Delegate Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson.
“We did hear these comments that actually were very much bigoted. As someone who fought for those non-discrimination ordinances in the Eastern Panhandle, I will tell you to rescind those is absolutely regressive.”
In response to Porterfield’s remarks, Democrats have twice attempted to discharge from committee a bill expanding West Virginia’s Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The state Democratic Party last week said Porterfield has no place in the Legislature.
“First of all, Delegate Porterfield needs to resign. West Virginia has no room for someone who expresses such hate. Let alone room for him to hold a public office where he is supposed to represent the people of West Virginia,” stated Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore.
“His hate-filled remarks and actions speak volumes and so does the Republican Party’s silence. The Republican majority’s leadership needs to condemn these actions. Their silence is complicit and the people of West Virginia deserve better.”