A top Republican politician in North Carolina is facing a wave of outrage and backlash, including calls for resignation, from elected officials and various human rights groups over his recent discriminatory comments that likened gay and transgender people to “filth”.
Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, the state’s highest Republican in an executive office position, made the remarks at Asbury Baptist church in Seagrove, North Carolina, in June. Right Wing Watch, a project of the advocacy group People For the American Way, posted the video on social media last week.
In the video, Robinson can be heard saying: “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth … And yes, I called it filth, and if you don’t like that I called it filth, come see me and I’ll explain it to you.”
Andrew Bates, a White House deputy press secretary from North Carolina, condemned Robinson’s remarks, saying, “These words are repugnant and offensive. The role of a leader is to bring people together and stand up for the dignity and rights of everyone; not to spread hate and undermine their own office.”
In addition to the White House, Democratic lawmakers and numerous rights groups have criticized Robinson, with some demanding his resignation while others request to meet him to discuss his remarks.
Jeff Jackson, a Democratic state senator and US Senate candidate urged Robinson to quit, tweeting, “Calling many of your own constituents ‘filth’ means you have no intention of representing them. Our Lt Governor should resign and allow someone who is prepared to do the job to take his place. This wasn’t a dog whistle, folks. This was old school hate.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, released a statement saying: “We are calling on Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson to resign for his disgraceful, hateful statements … This is not the first time Robinson has shared his discriminatory views, but it should be the last time he gets away with it as an elected leader.”
Kaye Vassey, a spokesperson from the LGBT Center of Raleigh echoed the HRC’s sentiments, telling the Guardian, “I’m not going down a path of politics but just absolute human rights and the words that he spoke are dangerous to the LGBTQ community, especially to the youth … and it’s a travesty.”
“We did send an open letter saying we would like to set up that meeting and ask for his resignation,” Vassey added, referring to an open letter sent by St John’s Metropolitan Community Church on behalf of various church groups to Robinson.
“Your words have caused considerable harm and you have the potential to cost people their lives. The Trevor Projects estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the US. This number could be reduced by as much as 40% if an adult in these young people’s lives shares unconditional love with them,” the letter obtained by the Guardian read.
Alisson Scott, director of impact and innovation at Campaign for Southern Equality, told the Guardian, “When he makes these comments, he somehow … tries to roll with the assumption that there are no LGBTQ students in existence and that we’re all somehow just adults and that’s simply false … For him to say this, it’s dangerous, it’s a weapon.”
Robinson, who has since doubled down on his comments, remained defiant, even posting on Facebook that he will not back down nor be silenced. He also said he would continue to fight for the rights of children to receive an education free from sexual concepts that “do not belong in the classroom”.
According to Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People For the American Way, Robinson’s act of defiance is “a sign that he is counting on rallying up and motivating the right wing base to carry him over the finish line.”
“I think that’s his political strategy – to use this kind of rhetoric to portray himself as the victim. He’s happy to hurl himself at others but somehow people criticizing him for making bigoted comments prompts him to make him seem like the victim,” Montgomery told the Guardian.
Robinson’s recent comments are only the latest examples of his discrimination against the LGBTQ community. After the 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Robinson wrote, “I pray for the souls of all those killed … However, homosexuality is STILL an abominable sin.”
In 2019, Robinson accused parents of having “mentally raped” their transgender children while criticizing gender reassignment surgeries.