Like Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, before him, Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, accidentally gave a pretty compelling argument for why West Virginia needs to add equal rights protection for the LGBTQ community in state law.
During the 2019 session, Porterfield went on a rant about the LGBTQ community, equating them to the Ku Klux Klan and later suggesting he might drown his children if they were gay. Butler, last week, released a statement excoriating Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, whom Butler is hoping to beat in an upcoming primary, for even sitting down and talking with Fairness West Virginia about ending discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In his attack, Butler used a strange argument about athletic competition being unfairly slanted because of gender identity and claimed lawsuits punishing state institutions and businesses would be inevitable by giving these groups equal protection. In fact, Butler argued it would somehow put the LGBTQ community in a category better protected than other citizens, which is ridiculous. Butler is projecting, thinking most businesses would discriminate against this community, so of course there would be lawsuits, when it’s far from clear that’s a majority opinion.
Butler’s argument that these groups already have protection under the current law is also a farce, as West Virginia courts have consistently ruled against hate crime prosecution based on sexual orientation.
He also said, “It is troubling that this meeting is taking place just before Christmas at a time when Biblical principles, like the basic First Amendment right of freedom of religion that the United States was founded upon, are under attack from many directions.”
Butler is simply pandering here, and showing he thinks voters are pretty gullible. Of course, the First Amendment also guarantees separation of church and state, so it’s hard to peg what kind of “Biblical principle” that embodies or how it is “under attack.”
Carmichael responded that Butler’s statement says more about Butler than it does about himself, and that there’s nothing wrong with attending a meeting to discuss such things with organizations like Fairness West Virginia.
We’ve been tough on Carmichael, especially as he has tried to break West Virginia public school teachers and their unions over the past two years. But, in this case, he’s spot on. In fact, Carmichael didn’t even really throw his entire support behind proposed legislation, which we’d like to see him do.
Adding protection against discrimination for the LGBTQ community is not a new idea. A bill that would do this has been introduced in nearly every legislative session for years now. It didn’t get passed when Democrats had control of the Legislature, and it hasn’t gained any ground under GOP control.
Despite continual bipartisan support, state politicians have been loathe to take on whatever heat may come their way on the issue. But the enormous lack of empathy and understanding demonstrated by public officials like Porterfield and Butler show exactly why the 2020 session is the time to get over any political fear and get this bill passed.