Gazette editorial: Eric Porterfield isn't as bad as you think; he's worse

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After a string of offensive remarks while attempting to derail cities’ rights in West Virginia to have ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination, Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, has been given ample opportunity to explain himself.

It turns out Porterfield isn’t as bad as you think he is. He’s worse.

Porterfield came under fire for comparing the LGBTQ community to the Ku Klux Klan, and using a derogatory term for homosexuals in reference to the name of a tour Milo Yiannopolous (who is gay but known for extreme right-wing political stunts) took to college campuses a couple of years ago. The state GOP and other Republican delegates have denounced his remarks.

Porterfield has remained staunchly unapologetic, and has now turned to painting himself as the victim, sporting his red MAGA cap, calling Democrats who want him to resign “socialists” and referring to the LGBTQ community as “vicious” and “political terrorists.”

He made even more disturbing remarks in a near-20 minute interview with Rachel Anderson on WVVA-TV.

Anderson asked Porterfield, who has two young children, what he would do if one day one of them told him they thought they might be gay. He said if it was his daughter, he would take her for a pedicure, if it was his son, he’d take him hunting and fishing. In both cases, after those activities, he said he would “see if [they] can swim.” He then grinned.

Anderson tries a couple of times to get Porterfield to clarify what appears to be a reference to drowning his children if they were gay. Porterfield doesn’t offer up much of anything but that grin.

Porterfield said he and his family have been harassed and threatened by members of the LGBTQ community, and that he’s worried about his safety. In the same interview, though, Porterfield downplays these communications, suggesting that those who oppose him are creating fake email or social media accounts to make themselves seem larger in number. He also said he won’t be intimidated and laughed off the idea of resigning over his own words and actions. Porterfield has the right to say anything he wants. That doesn’t mean saying such things as a member of the Legislature doesn’t have consequences.

There are a few basic issues that Porterfield doesn’t seem to understand. In the interview with Anderson, he continually calls the group antagonizing him “the LGBTQ.” LGBTQ is, as many people know, an acronym for anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Porterfield seems to think it’s an actual organization like the NRA that exerts its political will and influence on government. There are certainly organized groups that do lobby for LGBTQ rights, but the gap in Porterfield’s understanding is telling.

He also accuses these groups of being “bigoted” and “socialist” for attacking anyone who does not believe the same things they do. That’s patently false, and it’s pretty clear Porterfield doesn’t have much experience with communities that have had to fight for decades for basic civil rights and acceptance, all while being ostracized and, in some cases, assaulted and even killed for being who they are. He sees lawsuits against discriminatory businesses or local laws to protect the LGBTQ community as an attack on what he is used to.

What Porterfield really wants is for everyone to think like him. He can’t understand why everyone won’t wake up and see what he thinks is happening. If he can’t openly discriminate against what’s not normal to him, or, worse, the people he’d like to discriminate against have the audacity to fight for their basic rights, surely the sky must be falling.

Sadly, Porterfield is only the loudest of those who share his views. Other legislators voted with him, and he didn’t get into office without a constituency. Porterfield should school up or step down. In the meantime, he’s a perfect example of why West Virginia needs to add protections for the LGBTQ community into its own discrimination law.

Funerals for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Ankrom, Vada - 1 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Dillard, Helen - 11 a.m., Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Greenlee, Margaret - 10 a.m., Bellemead United Methodist Church.

Harper, Carl - 10 a.m., Matics Funeral Home, Clendenin.

Humphrey, Connie - Noon, Restlawn Memory Gardens, Victor.  

Justice, Thelma - 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Lanham, Kathy - 1 p.m., Long & Fisher Funeral Home, Sissonville.

McDerment, Randall - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Russell, Michael - 4 p.m., Morris Funeral Home, Cowen.

White, Thomas - 11 a.m., St. Anthony Catholic Church, Charleston.