North Carolina’s lieutenant governor sparked a national uproar over his latest anti-LGBTQ statements. But where is the outrage from his party’s leadership?
It’s not the hateful noise from Mark Robinson that should alarm you the most, North Carolina. It’s the silence from his peers in the Republican Party.
Robinson, the highest-ranking Republican in North Carolina, was open about his anti-LGBTQ beliefs long before he called queer folks “filth” at a Randolph County church in June. Long before he called trans folks “demonic” at a church in Raleigh in August.
So stow the shock. The hate isn’t a mistake, it is the message.
Robinson is not, as so many headlines labeled him, “homophobic.” He does not fear queer folks. He hates them. He will be remembered as a bigot, a spiteful buffoon who — best-case scenario — resigns today, even if that’s unlikely.
But how will the leadership of North Carolina’s Republican Party be remembered, those “mainstream” conservatives like NC Senate leader Phil Berger and NC House Speaker Tim Moore who have enabled Robinson in his short political career?
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The NC GOP issued a statement late Tuesday saying that they stand by Robinson while attempting to pivot to talk about education and “indoctrination.” But this was never about education. It was always about hate.
“As an LGBTQ elected official, it is important that I condemn Mark Robinson’s words,” state Rep. Vernetta Alston wrote on Twitter Sunday, a day before National Coming Out Day. “But for the future of our state, it is more important that every North Carolinian do the same.”
Both Berger and Moore, the GOP’s most influential lawmakers over the last decade, declined comment when the AP asked them about it this weekend. That’s not surprising. Both lawmakers have been in Raleigh for a double-digit number of terms. And while their legislating on atrocious bills like the anti-gay, anti-trans HB2 embraced the right’s worst instincts, they are usually measured in their public pronouncements.
But since Berger and Moore are so tight-lipped, perhaps we can look to their top advisors for some perspective on the fracturing of the GOP.
“There is no future for a political party that is anti-gay,” Brent Woodcox, a senior advisor to Berger, wrote on Twitter last week around the time the Robinson story broke. “There just isn’t a large enough constituency in this country for the attitude. The world changed. Some politicians are catching up.”
Woodcox cited Gallup polling this summer that showed a record 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage in 2021. Support has been on a steep incline since the mid-1990s, around the time Democratic President Bill Clinton signed federal legislation defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
The Democratic Party, the US Supreme Court and most of the public have done a total about-face on this issue. But what of North Carolina’s Republican Party?
If Tuesday’s statement from the party is any indication, we know the answer to that.
Of Math and Morals
If morals won’t appeal to some GOP leaders, what about math?
As Berger’s aide Woodcox argued, it makes no sense for any party to stake their future on hating queer people. This June’s Gallup polling also found that, for the first time ever, a small majority of Republicans support same-sex marriage too. Republican support has consistently lagged the rest of the country, but it has more or less been on the rise for years.
This culture war is lost, but they persevere. You get the sense that folks like Robinson think it’s brave to do so, as if there is courage in further marginalizing an already marginalized population.
Regardless, Robinson is not driven by numbers. He wields his ill-gotten view of faith like a cudgel. Like former President Trump, he uses notoriety, liberal disgust, and the accompanying media frenzy as a launchpad.
Robinson told CBS News “he won’t back down” this weekend, and of course he won’t. Indeed, the lieutenant governor doubled and tripled down on it this weekend, targeting a couple of LGBTQ-friendly children’s books in his crusade against the 21st century.
If Robinson was a fringe candidate, that would be one thing. But it’s plausible that he runs for governor, and that he does so with the blessings of top Republicans in this state.
Which is why the question has to be put to his enablers, to every Republican who stood with him in August when Robinson declared with no credible evidence that liberal educators were “indoctrinating” students in North Carolina schools.
It must be put to Berger and Moore, to state Public Schools Superintendent Catherine Truitt, and to the conservative pundits at the Locke Foundation who’ve boosted Robinson.
What do you believe? What do you stand for? Will you be the one in your party to publicly call Robinson to account?
The LGBTQ community of North Carolina, particularly the LGBTQ youth — who are more likely to commit suicide or drop out of school because of bigoted bullies like Robinson — need to hear they are valued and safe in the state of North Carolina. So if you can’t speak to Robinson, speak to these North Carolinians.
“If you have been struggling with the comments made this week, please know that I see you, I hurt with you, and you are loved,” state Rep. Allison Dahle, one of a few openly LGBTQ legislators in North Carolina, wrote on Twitter last week after Robinson’s video became public. Dahle tagged the post “#WeAreNotFilth.”
Dahle is a Democrat. But that hardly matters. There is no conservative principle that demands hatefulness.
Again and again, we’ve been told by the GOP that bigotry is not the brand. But you cannot have it both ways.
You can have a Republican Party that could thrive in the 21st century, one that is not a safe house for bigots, or you can have Mark Robinson. Choose one.