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GOP lawmaker under fire after calling LGBTQ groups 'modern day' KKK

Republican Delegate Eric Porterfield of West Virginia is facing calls to resign after a series of homophobic comments.
Image: The State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia.
The State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia.Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Eric Porterfield, a Republican delegate in the West Virginia legislature, is being denounced by his own party and is facing calls to resign from Democrats after calling LGBTQ groups "the closest thing to political terrorism in America" and "a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan."

He initially made the remarks last week during a legislative debate in the state's House of Delegates, but he then doubled down on his anti-LGBTQ views during a phone interview with NBC News.

"The LGBTQ — not homosexuals, but the LGBTQ — is the closest thing to political terrorism in America," Porterfield told NBC News. While Porterfield did not elaborate on what he specifically meant by "the LGBTQ," he appeared to be speaking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people who advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Porterfield started his nearly week-long series of commentary regarding "the LGBTQ" last Wednesday in the West Virginia House during a debate about local discrimination ordinances.

“The LGBT is the most socialist group in this country,” he said during an "extended diatribe," according to The Charleston Gazette-Mail. “They do not protect gays. There are many gays they persecute if they do not line up with their social ideology.”

Porterfield then reiterated his views during an interview on Friday with the paper. “The LGBTQ is a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan, without wearing hoods with their antics of hate,” Porterfield told the Gazette-Mail.

In West Virginia — like a number of other states that do not have state-level, anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people — cities and other localities have enacted their own nondiscrimination ordinances to protect local LGBTQ populations. The amendment that Porterfield was supporting and debating would have allowed the state to eliminate municipal anti-discrimination ordinances. That measure failed in the state's House of Delegates last week.

"Let me very clear with my statement," Porterfield told NBC News Monday afternoon. "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," Porterfield, who is blind, added.

Porterfield also denounced efforts to ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, saying "you definitely should not be able, if someone disagrees with you, to force your lifestyle on their business, or in their housing, or how they identify their bathrooms."

As evidence of the threats he has received, which led him to contact the police, Porterfield played several recordings from his voice mail for NBC News. One, from a self-described "faggot" who said his family hailed from Mercer County, challenged Porterfield to a rumble on capital grounds and said he would "bash back." Another message said "until it is illegal to be in possession of sentiment, I hope your f---ing church burns to the ground with everyone in it.” Porterfield is founder of Blind Faith Ministries, a "fundamental, independent Baptist mission organization."

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.

Melody Potter, the state's GOP chairwoman, issued a statement rebuking Porterfield but did not call for his resignation.

“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,” Potter said. “These comments are unacceptable and we denounce them. They have no place in America.”

In respond to Potter's statement, Porterfield said, "Chairman Potter was very premature in her actions, not even calling or speaking to me as to what had happened, and if she's going to cause that type of flack and not get all the facts, maybe she should get another line of work."