Lt. Gov. Robinson angry, defiant amid controversy over LGBTQ comments
Posted October 12, 2021 11:05 a.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2021 8:50 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Tuesday that he won't back down from trying to remove "highly sexual" material from North Carolina schools, despite attacks over his comments against the LGBTQ community.
Videos of Robinson's appearances at two churches this summer have surfaced in recent days.
"If there's a movement in this country that is demonic and is full of anti-, the spirit of the antichrist, it is the transgender movement," Robinson said during an August appearance at Upper Room Church of God in Christ, where he went on to compare a transgender individual to someone dressing up as a dog.
"They’re dragging our kids down into the pit of hell trying to teach them that mess in our schools," he said. "Two plus two don’t equal transgender; it equals four. You need to get back to teaching them how to read instead of teaching them how to go to hell. Yeah, I said it, and I mean it."
Two months before that, he appeared at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove.
"There is no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality or any of that filth," he said. "And yes, I called it filth. And if you don't like it that I called it filth, come see me about it."
He made similar remarks last month at the North Carolina Values Coalition's 10th anniversary celebration. There, he urged parents to stand up to school boards and school administrators who are "pushing these perverted agendas, to try to teach our children that they're really not boys or girls, or they're shoving this homosexuality garbage down their throats."
Robinson insisted during a Tuesday afternoon news conference outside his office that he was targeting some LGBT-themed books and not any individual.
"This issue has been twisted into something it is not," he said. "When I stood on that [Seagrove] pulpit on that Sunday and referred to 'filth,' I was not talking about any person. I was talking about materials that are being presented to our children that are absolutely inappropriate."
On a video screen behind him, he displayed images from "Gender Queer," a graphic novel with images that depict sexual fantasies and behavior among its characters.
"These materials do not belong in our schools, not in the classroom, not in the hallways, not in our libraries," he said, noting that the images could be considered child pornography.
Wake County Public School System spokeswoman Lori Roach said Tuesday that two high schools have copies of "Gender Queer." She said two high schools also have copies of "Lawn Boy," and there are 72 copies of "George" across the district. Robinson targeted those two books for removal as well in a Facebook post on Saturday.
"These books in question are not taught in our schools," Roach said in an email. "They are not included in any curriculum. In some schools, they are available in the school library for students to check out."
Mary Lee Gibson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Instruction, said Tuesday that local districts decide what books to include in their school libraries.
Robinson's spokesman wasn't able Monday to cite any school where the books have been used by teachers.
Robinson said having the material in one school is too much, and he would feel the same way if the images depicted heterosexual sex. He insisted that he's not anti-LGBTQ, despite his history of comments about homosexuality and transgenderism.
"People want to accuse me of being the bad guy. I'm not the bad guy, folks. I'm the guy that's trying to get pornography out of our schools," he said.
Democratic lawmakers focused on his comments during their own news conference Tuesday morning.
"Hate and name calling has no place in the public discourse," said Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham. "Just like the N-word is abhorrent, so is calling transgenderism and homosexuality as filth."
Morey and other openly gay lawmakers said they wanted to affirm their support for the LGBTQ community.
"We're here today for the queer student who woke up on the first day of school terrified of leaving their home or the LGBTQ elder who went back in the closet at their retirement community or for the 42% of transgender youth who have considered suicide," said Rep. Vernetta Alston, D-Durham.
"Words have consequences, and leaders have responsibilities," Morey said. "Some of those responsibilities are to keep young people in our state safe and not sow division."
The lawmakers called on Republican House and Senate leaders to condemn Robinson's remarks.
"Our words carry weight. Capable leaders understand that," Alston said. "So, despite what others may say or do, there are policy makers here who are fighting with you every single day. ... You deserve better from us, from every lawmaker in North Carolina."
House Speaker Tim Moore issued a statement Tuesday afternoon stating that Robinson has made it clear his comments targeted books and not the LGBTQ community.
"I agree with the Lt. Governor that it is inappropriate for our children to be exposed to sexually explicit images in reading materials provided by our schools," said Moore, R-Cleveland. "I am confident that we can work together with greater respect for our neighbors even in the most passionate political debates."
Alston noted growing efforts to expand protections for LGBTQ North Carolinians – both Raleigh and Wake County are working on nondiscrimination ordinances that include LGBTQ individuals – and said Robinson's comments motivate her to do more.
"I just want to ask all the LGBTQ folks out there to keep demanding more for yourself [and] for those around you," she said. "Keep finding your strength. Keep walking out the door every single day being exactly who you are, and we'll be with you every step of the way."
Robinson said the controversy has led him to be a target of racist emails and voicemails, but he said that won't stop him.
"Not only are we not resigning, we are not going to stop until the schools in North Carolina are safe from this kind of filth," he said.