CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — “Hi, I’m Joshua Higginbotham and I’m gay.”
And with that, the self-described conservative, Christian delegate from Putnam County became the first openly gay Republican legislator in West Virginia. Support from progressive Democrats was swift.
“And really he said it best. He’s not ashamed of it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You know, this moves us closer to a day where a story like this is no longer necessary nor newsworthy,” said Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha).
There was also support from the Republican House, including Majority Leader Amy Summers of Taylor County, who said of Higginbotham: “Doesn’t change one thing about our relationship. Love you the same as a member of our House family.”
It’s perhaps no coincidence the announcement came during Pride Month, a celebration of unity and support with the LGBTQ community. Leaders note that Higginbotham is 24-years old, saying he sets an example for others.
“I think in some of the more rural parts of our state it must be very difficult for a younger person to deal with his or her sexual orientation. And, so Josh is a role model as a legislative leader,” said Andrew Schneider, Fairness West Virginia.
“My family accepts me for who I am. My friends accept me for who I am. And I hope you will do the same,” said Higginbotham in a Facebook video.
While there were a few negative comments on Higginbotham’s Facebook post, most remarks were very supportive.
“People from both sides of the aisle tell me what the Delegate does in his private life is of no interest to them. What does matter to them is what he does for the people of West Virginia, inside the halls of the Capitol,” said Mark Curtis with WFXR’s sister station.