This last week, members of my party broadcast intolerance toward a community of our fellow West Virginians. An op-ed in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel went so far as to attack not only the LGBTQ community, but even their constitutional right to freedom of assembly.
Shortly after publication of the article, which was penned by Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, our Republican Party leader, Melody Potter, praised his intolerance, calling it “right on.”
This comes only a couple of months after Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, compared the LGBTQ community to the Ku Klux Klan and hinted that he would drown his own children, should they come out as gay.
This draconian rhetoric encourages the negative perceptions people outside this state have about West Virginia. I would never restrict one’s right to freedom of speech, but that speech cannot be left unchallenged.
I assure you that these individuals do not represent the Republican Party as a whole. In fact, there are Republicans working to make positive change in our state via nondiscrimination legislation.
Most West Virginians agree that no individual should be fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes due to their sexual orientation. However, unless a city or town adopts their own ordinance, this is completely legal to do.
Twelve cities and towns have adopted these ordinances to protect their citizens, but there is still work to be done. I was the first Republican to sponsor such legislation for a statewide nondiscrimination act when I served in the Senate, and thankfully, there are people in the Senate who agree.
More recently, our Republican Senate president and majority leader have both endorsed such legislation. Since the Republican Party has gained control of the Legislature, there has been more support for this legislation than ever before in the history of our state.
Azinger, Potter and Porterfield are wrong about this issue. The shameful thing is not the West Virginia LGBTQ community, but it is these types of comments which degrade our own citizens. We can do better.