In a week where LQBTQ individuals were compared to members of the Ku Klux Klan by an elected state official, those who make up the community said they are choosing to focus on the issues that are actually important to them.
Cris Mayo, director of the LQBTQ+ Center at WVU, said she is thinking about people who live where Delegate Eric Portefield, R-Mercer, the official who made the comparison, lives, and if they are going to stay warm this winter.
“[Porterfield’s] in Mercer County, and [there is] a very strong advocacy group in West Virginia called Queer Appalachia, who is also in Mercer County,” Mayo said, “Queer Appalachia spent the winter trying to provide free coats for 5,000 people; because they see that there’s a need in their community to provide people with warm coats.”
Porterfield, starting last Wednesday and continuing until Monday, has made repeated statements, including these to the DA, calling the LGBTQ community “the modern Ku Klux Klan,” and “the closest thing to political terrorism in our country.”
Daniel Gallegos, a WVU junior and a student ambassador for the LQBTQ+ Center, said in the end, Porterfield’s comments were really nothing but words
“It’s honestly baseless. It doesn’t have a lot of merit to what he’s saying, because it doesn’t make any sense,” Gallegos, also a transfer student from Ecuador, said. “The KKK is the modern day KKK.”
Delegate Caleb Hanna, R-Webster, the country’s youngest black legislator, told The New York Times that the KKK left racist fliers in constituents’ lawns just before the election.
Mayo said while the statements by Porterfield aren’t unoriginal, they’re different in that they have come from a person who writes state laws.
“I think it’s really different when it’s somebody who’s an elected official,” she said.
The Republican leadership in the state legislature up until Monday has largely kept quiet on the controversy. West Virginia GOP Chairwoman Melody Potter sent out a statement Monday, four days after the original incident in the legislature, calling the comments “unacceptable.”
Gallegos said he hopes state officials will eventually step up and take action.
“It’s human rights. It’s our right to live and our right to love, and that’s not a partisan issue,” he said.
On campus, Mayo said she tells members of the LGBTQ community, and those feeling unsafe, to look beyond the hate from one person, and those who say similar things, and notice the people doing good work in the world.
“Walk toward the people who are friendly to you,” Mayo said. “The people who are scared and angry, try to stay away from them as much as you can.”
Mayo also encouraged both members and non-members of the LQBTQ community to stop into the Center whenever, which recently moved to College Avenue and officially opens Feb. 22.
“We’ve tried in the Center to get out in front of things and say, ‘Please don’t lose hope; come here, have a cup of hot chocolate,’” Mayo said. “We just bought 10 boxes of hot chocolate.”