This story originally published online at N.C. Policy Watch.
A group of NC House Democrats spoke in support of LGBTQ residents at a news conference Tuesday while condemning Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s homophobic remarks in a video that surfaced last week.
“We’re all here to affirm the value and importance of LGBTQ people, but I hope also to represent the kind of support that this community has in every corner of our state,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston, a Durham Democrat.
Alston and Rep. Allison Dahle, a Raleigh Democrat, noted the Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ mental health reported that 42 percent of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year.
In a video recorded at a church, Robinson, a Republican, called “transgenderism” and homosexuality “filth.”
“When you live in a place where you’re pointed out as something not good, it’s really hard to process that,” Dahle said.
The White House has condemned Robinson’s comments. Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, called on Robinson to resign.
Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday none of their GOP colleagues called them to offer support after news of the Robinson video spread.
“Last week the Lieutenant Governor lit a match of hatred and intolerance that deserves a response from gay elected officials and it’s what our constituents want us to do,” said Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat. “Hate and name calling has no place in the public discourse. Just like the N-word is abhorrent, so is calling transgenderism and homosexuality as ‘filth.’”
Robinson posted a Facebook video on October 9, where he said his comments at the church were about school reading material. He mentioned three books with LGBTQ themes, George, Lawn Boy, and Gender Queer: A memoir.
All three have been challenged in other states. Parents in Texas and Virginia had Lawn Boy and Gender Queer pulled from school libraries, The Washington Post reported. Both won are recipients of American Library Association Alex Awards, which each year recognize 10 books “written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”
Marshall University Libraries cited George on its list of the most recently challenged books of 2020-2021.
Robinson repeated the assertion at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, as a stood by a panel from the graphic novel Gender Queer, saying it was too explicit for schools.
“We talking about materials – inappropriate materials – that are being presented to our children. And we’re talking about those politicians who have demonized me because I’m trying to get this out of our classrooms,” he said.
Robinson said he’s received racist messages at his office.
Robinson has a history of homophobic comments, dating before his election last fall. He did not want to discuss those Tuesday.
“I don’t want to talk about Facebook posts right now,” he said. “Let’s just drop the whole Facebook thing and let’s talk about the subject matter at hand.”
At the House Democrats’ news conference, Dahle countered Robinson’s contention that he was focused on schools, and quoted Robinson’s comments at the church:
“There’s no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.”
Dahle said, “That doesn’t seem like it was focused on education.”
Morey called Robinson’s insistence that he was talking about school books a “bait and switch.”
“It started out as a church video, and it was disgusting,” she said. “And now it has pivoted to what kids are reading in schools. These are really two different issues. I that we all want good, solid literature that kids can read. Don’t conflate this with the words of hate and filth that sparked this entire debate.”
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