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Lt. Gov. Robinson confronts Democratic lawmaker following speech

Posted November 29, 2021 9:14 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2021 12:38 p.m. EST

— Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson confronted a Democratic lawmaker on Monday after she called out elected officials who speak against minorities during a speech on the Senate floor.

Sen. Julie Mayfield, D-Buncombe, didn't name Robinson during her remarks, but she said elected officials should have respect for all their constituents. Senate rules forbid members from criticizing other members by name on the chamber floor.

"My comments were absolutely in response to his very hateful statements against LGBTQ individuals," Mayfield told WRAL News on Monday night.

Robinson, a Republican who's likely to run for governor in 2024, has been under fire the past few months for comments he's made about the LGBTQ community at churches and conservatives gatherings, such as calling homosexuality and transgenderism "filth" and "garbage."

After the Senate session, Robinson caught up with Mayfield outside the chamber and told her, "Next time, before you get ready to say something on that floor, come see me." He then walked away quickly and didn't respond to questions from startled onlookers.

The confrontation appeared to be in response to Mayfield's comments on the Senate floor, according to a tweet by Sen. Natasha Marcus, D-Mecklenburg.

Robinson did not immediately respond to WRAL News' request for comment.

"As elected leaders, we have a responsibility to serve all of our constituents, not just those who look like us, think like us or worship at the same church as us," Mayfield said on the Senate floor. "We are here to serve everyone, even if we may not understand them and even if they didn't – and never will – vote for us. And yes, even if they love differently from us."

Robinson has insisted his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is targeted at LGBTQ-themed books that he wants out of school libraries and aren't against any individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He also has said that he's been speaking as an individual whose faith doesn't accept LGBTQ, not as th elieutenant governor.

Mayfield said during her comments that it's "folly" for elected officials to think they could speak in public and separate themselves from their offices.

"Indeed, most of us are invited to speak to groups because of our elected office, not in spite of it," she said. "We are elected officials, and if we can't respect our constituents, rather than viciously attack some of them, then maybe we're in the wrong job.".

She said she stood "in solidarity with LGBT North Carolinians."

"Silence is complicity," she said. "I hope all of you who believe in fairness and equality will join me in advocating for equal protection under the law and the fundamental recognition that all people are human beings deserving of respect."

"If it serves to make people more aware of the hateful statements that our lieutenant governor has made and to help hold him more accountable for those, than more power to it," Mayfield told WRAL on Monday night.

"I didn't think that he was telling me that I needed his permission," she said of her brief encounter with Robinson. "I think that he was reacting to being called out in a very public way like that on the floor of the Senate."

Video of the confrontation was posted by Marcus on Twitter. In a tweet, Marcus said she caught the tail end of the confrontation.

"For the record, Sen. Mayfield's remarks were full of compassion for all people. She believes, as I do, that elected reps should not speak in hateful terms about constituents. The struggle for civil rights is ongoing," Marcus wrote in a tweet.

Mayfield told WRAL that, prior to the recording, Robinson told her that he didn't appreciate her equating Black people with gay people. Mayfield said she replied to Robinson that wasn't what she did.

"Then, the rest of it is him saying what he's saying, that he's tired of being criticized for his comments," said Mayfield.

During Robinson and Mayfield's confrontation, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who was not aware of the confrontation, was asked about Robinson's earlier comments about LGBTQ people. Berger said Robinson has made it clear that he understands he is lieutenant governor for everyone in the state.

"Whether they are folks that agree with him, disagree with him or object to any comments that he may have made ... at religious settings," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

"I don't monitor or note approval of everything that every elected official says. I feel that I'm accountable for things I say. I think that's appropriate. I don't know that it's appropriate for me to be passing judgment on whether he should have said something at a particular time," Berger added.

Democratic lawmakers have previously denounced Robinson's comments.

Gov. Roy Cooper has called Robinson's comments "abhorrent," while White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said Robinson's words were "repugnant and offensive."

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