CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — The West Virginia Republican Party is condemning comments made by a Mercer County delegate who said LGBTQ groups are socialists and do not protect gays.
"As West Virginians, we are taught to respect one another, love our neighbors, and when we disagree to seek understanding of our fellow Mountaineers,” Melody Potter, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said in a news release. "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. These comments are unacceptable and we denounce them. They have no place in America."
Last week, Porterfield, R-Mercer, said residents should have the freedom to fire or deny someone housing based on their sexual orientation. He was referring to an amendment that would have limited what ordinances cities are allowed to enact, including bills that add LGBTQ discrimination protections to its code.
The amendment in the House failed.
Porterfield said it's not a legislator's job to legislate behavior, adding that LGBT groups are "socialists" who do not protect gays. He told the committee, "We cannot allow discriminatory bigots to determine how our citizens are going to live."
The Mercer County lawmaker’s comments drew fiery debate in the House, and were sharply criticized by several delegates. Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said the amendment was simply a measure of “hate” that would make West Virginia look more backwoods in the eyes of representatives of national companies that might consider coming here.
"You can cut the cheese any way you want to want to cut it, but the purpose of the amendment was to spread hate across West Virginia again," Caputo said. "That's what the amendment does."
The GOP’s Potter said people many disagree on policy, politics and the direction of the state, but “we can disagree civilly and respectfully because intolerant and hateful views hold us back, divide us, and hurt our state."
The AP contributed to this report.