CHARLESTON – State lawmaker Eric Porterfield continues to stand by remarks he made last week mischaracterizing LBGTQ organizations fighting for basic civil rights as “brutal monsters” and compared them to a “modern-day KKK.”
Porterfield, a 44-year-old Republican who is serving his first term in the House of Delegates representing Mercer County, set off the firestorm Feb. 7 after he voiced support for an amendment that remove LBGTQ people as a protected group, nullifying ordinances that Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry and other municipalities have passed to include them.
West Virginia does not provide state-level anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
On Monday, West Virginia’s GOP chairwoman joined the chorus in condemning Porterfield’s statements, which he’s repeated in TV and other interviews.
“In recent days, Delegate Eric Porterfield has made comments that are hateful, hurtful and do not reflect the values of our country, our state, and the Republican Party,” Melody Potter said in an emailed statement. “These comments are unacceptable and we denounce them. They have no place in America.”
Meanwhile, West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore called for Porterfield to resign.
“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.
Porterfield’s comparison between the gay community and the Ku Klux Klan, the organization responsible for lynchings, intimidation and terroristic acts against African-Americans for more than a century, has drawn national attention.
According to an article in the Princeton Times, Porterfield was a “pretty wild, out-of-control teenager” before enrolling at a Bible college and later founding Blind Faith Ministries.
The story does not provide details but says Porterfield, who is married and a father, “was attacked and sustained head injuries so severe that he lost all of his vision in 2006.”
In a committee meeting on Thursday Porterfield used an anti-gay slur as he quoted the full name of Milo Yiannopoulos’s speaking tour. Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart editor who is gay and an outspoken Trump supporter, has the name emblazoned on his tour bus.
In an interview Monday with NBC News, Porterfield said: “The LGBTQ — not homosexuals, but the LGBTQ — is the closest thing to political terrorism in America.”
“Let me very clear with my statement,” Porterfield said in that interview. “The LGBTQ — not homosexuals — are the modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.
“They are socialist in nature, they exercise economic extortion, they terrorize and frighten people such as myself, even with a severe disability, with threats and intimidation.”
On Monday, Delegate Cody Thompson, a Democrat from Randolph County, spoke on the floor about Porterfield.
“I will tell my fellow members of the LGBT community that you are loved,” Thompson said. “You are loved, you’re respected you matter and I stand with you in solidarity.”
Thompson also pointed to Porterfield’s weekend interview with WVVA, a Bluefield television station. Reporter Rachel Anderson asked Porterfield how he would respond if his children were gay or lesbian.
“Well, I’ll address my daughter first,” Porterfield responded. “I would take her for a pedicure, take her to get her nails done and see if she could swim. If it was my son, I would probably take him hunting. I would take him fishing and I’d see if he could swim.”
Pressed about what he meant, Porterfield would say only that he “would just want to make sure they could swim.”
Thompson brought up that exchange. “In case anyone was interested,” he said, “my caring, loving and supportive parents never threw me into any body of water. But they did teach me how to swim.”