Communities suffer as a result of discrimination and hateful language, and the outcomes go beyond ideological divisions

The chandelier in the West Virginia Capitol shines for all of the state’s citizens. Photo by Perry Bennett, Legislative Photographer.

BY STEPHANIE TYREE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AND TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

In our work at The Hub, we see first-hand how welcoming new ideas, changing positions at the encouragement of our fellow residents, and working to understand one another can guide communities to solutions that make our state stronger.

We know that the work of strengthening our state happens collaboratively. Arriving at strong, and equitable, solutions is the result of a willingness to lean into work happening across the ideological spectrum while maintaining an open mind.

We see this type of collaboration happening every day in the heart of vibrant West Virginian communities. This way of working demands mutual respect and care in the way we interact with one another, and in the way we speak to and about each other.

While we don’t typically use the Legislative Hubbub to advocate for specific bills or comment on individual legislator’s actions, we believe we must make an exception this week.

(This statement originally appeared in our weekly e-newsletter sent during WV’s legislative session, the Legislative Hubbub. Click here to sign up.)

When words are spoken by a legislator that directly denigrate or attack an entire group of people, we know that silence is not enough.

The Hub rejects the statements made this past week by Delegate Eric Porterfield relating to the LGBTQ community – statements that he made first in a committee meeting and later reiterated multiple times to local and state media.

We believe his position does not reflect the values of our state, the actions we see on the ground in communities, or the vision for West Virginia’s future that we see community members building each and every day.

Communities suffer as a result of discrimination and hateful language, and the outcomes go beyond ideological divisions. Divisive language and policies undermine the integrity of our political systems, and they ripple through our communities.

Using this kind of language does not model the type of leadership that will build a brighter future for our state. Further, leading in this manner disrupts the important work that needs to be accomplished during our short, 60-day legislative session.

Delegate Porterfield does not speak for us, and we do not believe he speaks for the hundreds of community leaders we work with across the state every day.

Dark words can lead to positive action when people come together in a response that rejects such divisiveness.

Over the past week, we have seen many examples of West Virginians who are making space for conversation about creating the kind of state that they want to live in, including a vision that builds on principles of true collaboration and respectful discourse. We also see many West Virginians who are deepening their investment to actively participate in shaping a new future for West Virginia.

That’s the West Virginia that we know and believe in.

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