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Controversial comments on nondiscrimination bill leads to fiery debate on House floor

West Virginia state code does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but there are 12 cities across the state that have ordinances on the books. (Paula Johnson)

West Virginia state code does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but there are 12 cities across the state that have ordinances on the books.

What started as a debate in a House committee to repeal those ordinances led to a fiery debate on the House floor.

The amendment to House Bill 2699 was proposed to stop cities from adding nondiscrimination ordinances that protect sexual orientation and gender identity.

The amendment failed but Delegate Eric Porterfield (R-Mercer) made some controversial comments regarding the LGBTQ community.

"This is discrimination against the first amendment and religious liberty, and the LGBT is the most socialist group and they don't protect gays,” Porterfield said in a House committee meeting Wednesday.

Those remarks sparked a fiery debate on the House floor Thursday.

"That discussion had nothing to do with anti-discrimination, it was pure and simple, we were trying to put an amendment that we would not create any protective class and what didn’t already exist under state and federal law,” Delegate Rom Bibby (R-Berkeley) said.

"It's hate, it's hate, and if anyone think differently they’re only kidding themselves," Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) said.

Friday afternoon, after the heated debate, Porterfield stood by his remarks.

"Those were not anti-gay remarks, those were anti LBGTQ remarks that I make, because they are a political terrorist, and probably the closest thing to the Ku Klux Klan in the modern political era and they have already proven that,” Porterfield said.

Porterfield said he's standing up for the first amendment religious freedoms which he claims the LGBTQ community threatens.

12 cities across West Virginia have added ordinances to protect their rights: Charleston, Huntington Harpers Ferry, Thurmond, Sutton, Lewisburg, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Charles Town, Wheeling, Morgantown, and Beckley.

"They are desperate to try to stop this progress in its tracks and they've resorted to kill it through the legislative process,” Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schnider said.

Schnider said these remarks give the state a black eye and he expects more from elected leaders.

"People listen to them, People look to them as role models,” Schnider said.

Schnider said this legislative session there is a Senate bill and four House bills aimed at adding the state protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Porterfield said since his comments he's received threats and is informing Capitol Police.

Friday night, West Virginia Democratic Chairwoman Belinda Biafore called for Republican leadership to denounce Porterfield's statement:

First of all, Delegate Porterfield needs 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. His hate-filled remarks and actions speak volumes and so does the Republican Party's silence. The Republican majority's leadership needs to condemn these actions. Their silence is complicit and the people of West Virginia deserve better.

Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin also released a statement saying, “Charleston is an inclusive and vibrant business community and we will continue to market ourselves to job creators and families as a modern, forward-looking city open to all.”

Schinder said 22 states have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscriminatory protections.

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