Doug Ericksen, an anti-LGBTQ+ Washington State legislator and critic of COVID-19 mitigation orders, has died after contracting the virus.
It wasn't clear if COVID-19 was the cause of death, but last month he revealed he had tested positive for the virus while on a trip to El Salvador and wrote to his fellow Republicans in the state's House and Senate asking for help in obtaining monoclonal antibodies, which were unavailable in that country, the Seattle Times reports. He later was flown to Florida for treatment, and his family announced that he died Friday. The family didn't say if he was still in Florida when he died, and it's unknown if he had been vaccinated against COVID.
Ericksen had traveled to El Salvador for reasons not made public, despite the U.S. State Department cautioning against visiting the Central American nation because of the ongoing pandemic. Members of his family had contracted COVID as well.
Ericksen was elected to the state House in 1998 and the Senate in 2010, representing a district in Whatcom County, north of Seattle. A staunch conservative, he voted against marriage equality in 2012 and more recently had objected to a Washington State Human Rights Commission policy mandating that buildings open to the public allow transgender people to use the restroom comporting with their gender identity.
This year, he spoke out against Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's moves to stop the spread of COVID. He introduced a bill to keep the state from imposing vaccine mandates, but it never got a hearing in the legislature. After Inslee announced in August that state and school employees and those working in private health care would have to be vaccinated against the virus, Ericksen began pushing his bill again, without success.
He was also an opponent of environmental regulations. In 2017 he worked with then-President Donald Trump on efforts to revamp the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and on the Washington State Senate's environment committee, he "had strongly opposed Inslee's initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions," the Times notes. Ericksen's statements about the environment included "Climate change will always happen."
Inslee and other Democrats joined Republicans in mourning Ericksen's death. "Trudi and I send our deep condolences to Doug's family, friends, and colleagues," Inslee said on behalf of himself and his wife. "Our hearts are with them."