West Virginia lawmaker faces new criticism of discrimination – CBS Pittsburgh

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A Republican lawmaker in West Virginia who resigned after posting an anti-gay slur but was then re-elected has again criticized an expanded online diatribe against protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity .

House delegate John Mandt said in a now-deleted Facebook post that he opposed the proposal known as the Fairness Act.

“Evil is often veiled in pleasant-sounding terms, and that is exactly what the Fairness Act does,” wrote Mandt. “There’s nothing fair about it.”

Republican delegate Joshua Higginbotham said he is the main sponsor of legislation that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public spaces. Similar protections exist in 22 states and in the District of Columbia.

Mandt said the proposal “falsely claims to be a civil rights law about fairness in employment and housing” and “forces people of faith into a position where they must choose between belief or unjust government persecution”.

Mandt also said that “everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, but not all behavior is dignified.”

While the proposal “ignores biology, it prefers gender-confused men and endangers the women and girls of our state, especially in intimate spaces that were previously reserved for women,” wrote Mandt.

Mandt’s comments were immediately criticized by at least one other delegate, the State Democratic Party, and Fairness West Virginia, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

“That’s why I go with my head up and my Gay Pride flag on my desk in the House Chambers,” wrote Democratic delegate Cody Thompson, an openly gay man, on Twitter. “So others like me know that they have a representative in the state government.”

State Democratic Party leader Belinda Biafore said Mandt’s comments were “troubling and dangerous”.

Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of Fairness West Virginia said, “Words have power, and Del. Mandt’s words only encourage the discrimination and prejudice that LGBTQ people experience on a daily basis. “

The proposal has gained more support since Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo co-introduced it in 2019. Republican Governor Jim Justice said in a debate among candidates last year that he would sign the bill if passed.

Mandt resigned as a House delegate in the heat of his re-election campaign last October after screenshots of him with an anti-gay slur appeared in a Facebook Messenger group. It was the latest in a series of discriminatory remarks made by the State Delegate against gay people and Muslims.

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Then the conservative small business owner overturned his decision to withdraw from the race and won re-election to represent Cabell County. The November elections brought the Republicans a large majority in the legislature after several angry victories over the Democrats. The legislature opens a 60-day session on Wednesday.

In October, Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw declared that bigotry had no place in the state and said Mandt had chosen “best course of action” in stepping down.

After Mandt won his seat back, Hanshaw appointed him vice chairman of a committee on small business and economic development.

“I don’t know what to say. In addition, Delegate Mandt has committee duties,” said Hanshaw on Wednesday.

Mandt, the owner of a hot dog company popular in Huntington, had an initial tenure that was one of controversy.

In 2019, he went to Facebook to attack a vigil in honor of the victims of a mass shooting in two mosques in New Zealand. Hundreds of people denounced his comments in a petition calling on Marshall University to cut ties with Mandt, Stewart’s original hot dogs. The university’s food entrepreneur dropped his business.

Screenshots of Mandt, who used a gay slur in a Facebook Messenger group chat in early October, led to his resignation. He first claimed his comments were fabricated, then he meant them as a joke.

In November he took third place out of six candidates in a competition in which the three best votes were awarded in the 16th district.

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