A second round of bigoted comments from a Republican delegate has drawn frustration from legislators and no sign of resolve.
Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, made the comments after calling a reporter to discuss a report in Friday’s Gazette-Mail. That report detailed a flurry of criticism House Democrats aimed at Porterfield on Thursday in response to an inflammatory anti-gay and lesbian rant he delivered in committee Wednesday.
“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. He also called the gay community a “terrorist group” and said he is being “persecuted” by the gay community in retaliation for his remarks, including receiving threats on Facebook and voicemails.
On Wednesday, he used the anti-gay slur “f----t” in a committee meeting, within the context of quoting the name of a speaking tour that uses the term in its title.
In an extended soliloquy at the hearing, he criticized the LGBTQ community while arguing in support of an amendment. The amendment, which was voted down, would have allowed for the discrimination of gay and lesbian people in cities that have passed ordinances expressly forbidding it. State law does not currently protect gay people from discrimination in housing, employment and other areas.
“The LGBT is the most socialist group in this country,” he said. “They do not protect gays. There are many gays they persecute if they do not line up with their social ideology.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, responded Friday to Porterfield’s comments after a floor session in a limited capacity because he had not yet discussed them with Porterfield personally.
“I hope that no one would make those kind of statements,” he said. “That sounds like nothing I would certainly ever agree with, but I would want to talk to him before I comment on what he said.”
He said talk of removing Porterfield from his committee assignments — a punitive action that was used by the previous speaker against a member who tried to oust him in 2018 — has not come up.
“We’re not going to have a repeat of what happened last week, let’s leave it at that,” he said.
Melody Potter, the chairwoman of the West Virginia Republican Party, did not respond to an interview request.
Although several Democrats have made remarks scolding Porterfield, Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, has been among the most vociferous. She challenged him Wednesday in committee, she lambasted him Thursday on the House floor and she spelled out a mix of emotions in an interview Friday evening.
“Why do we need more hate?” Walker, a black woman who has a son who is gay, said. “Why do we need more name-calling? Why do we need to reference other groups that illustrated so much hate and destruction and ugliness. Why do we need to do that?”
She said she’s received an outpouring of support for being a voice supporting equality.
“This is how we grow as a person, this is how we grow as a community, and this is how we grow as a state,” she said.
House Republicans sought to distance themselves from Porterfield’s remarks.
House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, who shares a district with Porterfield, declined to comment, as did Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood.
Some were more candid.
“He’s wrong, very wrong,” said Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell. “There’s just no excuse though for some of the things that he said.”
Delegate John Mandt, R-Cabell, said he didn’t appreciate Porterfield’s sentiments.
“When we talk, and when we say things, we need to represent our caucus, instead of putting us, our caucus, out on a limb,” he said. “[Porterfield] is a great guy, I just would prefer that we don’t put people down if they do something that you don’t personally believe in.”
Porterfield initiated the call Friday to thank news outlets for coverage he said will bolster his re-election chances.
In a news release, Belinda Biafore, the state Democratic Party chairwoman, called for Porterfield’s resignation.
“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,” she said. “His hate-filled remarks and actions speak volumes, and so does the Republican Party’s silence.”