The 2018 election may have launched a “rainbow wave” of LGBTQ candidates into office, but that doesn’t mean that states and municipalities are suddenly safe and inclusive places for LGBTQ people. Such progress is often met with backlash, and a spate of offensive comments by lawmakers in recent weeks is a reminder of how fragile that progress can be.
Last week, West Virginia state Delegate Eric Porterfield (R) argued in favor of a bill that would “preempt” LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections that have been passed at the local level by dictating that municipalities cannot extend protections beyond what’s offered at the state level. Referring to an amendment that would have added LGBTQ protections at the state level, he insisted it was “bigoted” because “the LGBT [sic] is the most socialist group in the country.”
Porterfield also cited far-right figure Milo Yiannopoulos as evidence that the LGBTQ community “persecutes” people who “do not line up with their social ideology.” Religious people would likewise be “discriminated against,” he insisted, if LGBTQ people were protected from discrimination.
After being decried by his colleagues in the state House, Porterfield doubled down on Friday. “The LGBTQ [sic] is a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods with their antics of hate,” he said, before describing the LGBTQ community as a “terrorist group” and claiming he was being persecuted for his earlier remarks.
In a separate interview this past weekend, Porterfield was asked how he would react if any of his children came out to him. Porterfield said he would take his daughter for a manicure and pedicure, and then “see if she can swim,” and would take his son out hunting, and “see if he can swim.”
When asked what he meant by this, Porterfield dodged, claiming he meant he would “take them out to do activities.”
What would Del. Porterfield do if his son thinks he's gay or if his daughter thinks she's a lesbian? He would "see if they can swim." It's disturbing how quickly the WVVA reporter moves on. pic.twitter.com/ESb3EswfZz
— Jake Jarvis (@JakeJarvisWV) February 11, 2019
He also claimed it was only a matter of time before the LGBTQ community began “burning rainbow flags in people’s yards, because they have no care for diversity of thought.”
Porterfield is one of several lawmakers currently in the hot-seat for making hateful or homophobic comments.
Wyoming state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R) also found herself under fire this past weekend for comments she made to a group of high school students earlier in February.
According to a complaint filed by the group Wyoming Equality on February 4 and made public on Friday, Hutchings responded to a group of students from the Cheyenne Central High School Gay-Straight Alliance, who were lobbying for a bill to protect LGBTQ people from employment discrimination, by comparing homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.
“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?” she allegedly said. After the interaction, Hutchings also offered to fist bump the students and even embraced one of them.
Wyoming Equality called the incident disturbing.
“We are deeply concerned about the lasting damage Senator Hutchings has inflicted on the GSA students in her district and the reputation she has established
for the Wyoming State Legislature,” the group wrote. “The Central High School students and their sponsor deserve a clear, direct apology and clarification that Senator Hutchings behavior was unacceptable and inappropriate of an adult and elected official.”
Hutchings has not yet commented on the accusation publicly, however, she has made similar remarks in the past. Opposing a pre-marriage equality bill to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships in 2013, she claimed that being gay is a choice and that the gay lifestyle is harmful to the mind, spirit, and body.
Incidentally, the Wyoming legislature voted in December to roll back rules prohibiting the use of discriminatory language by lawmakers.
Last week, a city council member in New York City also faced criticism after he complained that the council was “controlled by the homosexual community.”
Rubén Díaz Sr. (D) claimed he faced rejection from his colleagues upon joining the council due to his long history of anti-LGBTQ views, including his opposition to marriage equality, as a New York state senator. “Over there, everybody is controlled by the homosexual community,” he said in a recent interview with a Spanish-language radio show. He specifically called out Speaker Corey Johnson for being married to another man.
Johnson, who is gay but single, demanded an apology from Díaz for his “homophobic comments.” Díaz refused to apologize, instead doubling down Sunday by adding that the LGBTQ community “not only control City Council, they control the politics in the state,” and saying he welcomed any backlash or punishment.
“If he had to take away my [committee positions] away from me, I would understand that,” he said.
Johnson said his office is still “reviewing all potential disciplinary scenarios.”
This article was updated to include comments from Porterfield’s WVVA interview over the weekend.