House Democrats chewed out a Republican delegate Thursday after he made remarks implying an anti-LGBT-discrimination amendment was a form of bigotry and intolerance.
It started Wednesday afternoon when Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, went into an extended diatribe supporting legislation that would have enabled LGBT-discrimination in cities that have passed ordinances expressly criminalizing it.
Speaking during a House Government Organization Committee session, Porterfield described the amendment as “bigoted,” “intolerant,” and “discriminatory,” after declaring that one of the “nonsense” ordinances the cities passed was a “travesty.”
“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.”
He argued that religious people would be discriminated against by the amendment. He cited Milo Yiannopoulos, a gay conservative provocateur, in the debate. In doing so, he used the anti-gay slur “f----t” during committee discussion, in reference to Yiannopoulos’ 2017 speaking tour, which used the term in its title.
During the tail end of Thursday’s floor session, several Democrats gave floor speeches, one by one, condemning Porterfield.
Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, was among the Democrats in Wednesday’s committee room who gave a floor speech Thursday. She said she has two sons — one has autism and the other is gay. The former didn’t feel comfortable attending Thursday’s floor session, in light of Porterfield’s remarks, Walker said.
“Let me give you a few [words] that were said yesterday: behavior, socialist, persecute, agenda, public safety, freedom, protected classes, race, religion, age, sex, disability, harm, live and let live, inclusion, tolerance, intolerant, simple, compromise, values,” she said.
“In the people’s House, my 17-year-old didn’t feel welcome because of one isolated instance. He wasn’t even in the committee room, thank God, because yes, my child has autism. No, he would not have understood not to say a word in that meeting.”
The committee amendment, proposed by Delegate Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha, would have nullified ordinances that go beyond the protections listed in the state Human Rights Act, which does not recognize gay people as a protected class, like race, sex or disability. A House attorney told the committee members that the amendment would forbid cities from drafting LGBT protection ordinances and would nullify any pre-existing ones.
Democrats on the committee, along with GOP delegates Eric Nelson, Tony Paynter and Joe Jeffries, successfully killed the amendment. The committee then voted in favor of the bill and sent it to the Judiciary Committee for review.
Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, who was in the committee room Wednesday, also spoke up.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that somebody might lose their job because their boss finds out that they’re gay,” he said, “and I don’t think it’s fair that somebody should be kicked out of their apartment because they choose to come out of the closet.”
Delegate Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, said there was a “crisis of character in the chamber.”
“The effect of the amendment was to spread hate across West Virginia once again,” said Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion.
House Democrats introduced a bill to amend the state Human Rights Act to include LGBT people. That bill has been referenced to the House Industry and Labor Committee, which is run by Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, a vocal critic of gay rights laws.
Earlier in the floor session, Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, tried, unsuccessfully, to discharge the bill from committee and bring it to the House floor for a vote. The vote failed on party lines.
“We had the opportunity to change human events, to say you’re welcome here. We tabled it,” he said. “We need to get rid of the antiquated thoughts in this chamber.”
In previous interviews, Porterfield said one of the main reasons he ran for office was to oppose a bill that would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy against gay children, a practice that has been condemned by several major medical associations.