North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) is defending language he used in a church message describing homosexuality and transgenderism as "filth" as state Democrats express outrage at his comments and at least one lawmaker has called for him to resign.
The lieutenant governor told WRAL-TV on Friday he is "unashamed" of language he used at Asbury Baptist Church in June, when he said that children should not be exposed to "transgenderism, homosexuality or any of that filth."
"There is no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality or any of that filth," Robinson said. "And yes, I called it filth. And if you don't like it that I called it filth, come see me about it."
Robinson told the church congregation that it is child abuse to force parents to send their children to school, tell them where to send their kids to school, and then teach them in those schools to hate America and that they are racist.
He also condemned critical race theory and Black Lives Matter activists, calling them "morons" and "socialist liars and nitwits."
"Black lives do not matter to Black Lives Matter," Robinson said. "You know how I know that? Because if they did you know where they would be instead of being at the police station? They would be down there at the gang hangout, at the drug dealer's house burning that down. They'd be down at the abortion clinic burning that down if Black lives really mattered."
His comments drew widespread condemnation from Democrats, with state lawmaker Sen. Jeff Jackson (D) calling for Robinson's resignation.
"There's no debate here. This is open discrimination. It is completely unacceptable," Jackson, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said. "Mark Robinson should resign."
A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Rory Cooper called Robinson's remarks "abhorrent" and said he used "hateful rhetoric that hurts people and our state's reputation," the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
But Robinson is unapologetic.
"We will not be intimidated. We will not back down. We will not change our language," Robinson told WRAL. "The language I used, I am not ashamed of it. I will use it in the future because, again, it is time for parents in this state to take a strong stand for their children."
He said the governor's opinion "makes no difference whatsoever."
"I am tired of folks on the right being demonized for our speech while folks on the left burn, beat, rob, loot — take over entire cities and get a pass," he said.
He added that he wasn't speaking in his official capacity as lieutenant governor when he was at the church, only as a private citizen speaking about his religious convictions.
"To me, it is against the tenets of my religion," he said of homosexuality and transgenderism. "But we do not live in a theocracy, and I do not have the right to tell anyone what they practice in their home."
Elaborating on his position, he said schools should keep those adult topics "absolutely off limits."
"Those are adult topics that should stay in an adult place. They have no business around children," he said. "Homosexuality is not a culture. Homosexuality is a sexual preference, and sexual preferences, I believe, do not need to be discussed in our schools."
LGBTQ activists said Robinson's comments were hateful and even "dangerous."
"At a time when LGBTQ people, especially those with multiple layers of marginalization, need a supportive state, Robinson offered transphobia and homophobia instead," said Kendra Johnson, director of Equality NC. "No one who thinks like this should be in a position of power, and these discriminatory attitudes underscore the need for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in North Carolina."
"These kinds of comments, they are literally dangerous. This is a weapon," said Allison Scott, director of impact and innovation for the Campaign for Southern Equality. "Whether that is his meaning or not, it is his words that are actually painting the picture that we as a group should not exist."
Democratic state lawmakers also lined up to criticize Robinson and call for his resignation.
"I stand with the LGBTQ Community and hope you will join me in condemning this hate speech from the most senior Republican elected official in our state," Sen. Wiley Nickel (D) tweeted.
State Rep. Marcia Morey (D), an LGBTQ lawmaker, told the News & Observer that Robinson's rhetoric was "degrading and undignified" and called on him to apologize.
Rep. Deb Butler (D) said the lieutenant governor is "clearly a very ignorant and petty fellow."
"He is just a very small-minded, little man in a big, gruff body, which makes him a bully. And nobody likes a bully, particularly an ignorant one," she said.
North Carolina Republican Party officials have largely remained silent on Robinson's remarks, but GOP political consultants took to social media to condemn what the lieutenant governor said.
"There is no future for a political party that is anti-gay," Brent Woodcox, senior policy counsel for Senate Leader Phil Berger (R), tweeted. "There just isn't a large enough constituency in this country for the attitude. The world changed. Some politicians are catching up."
Madison Downing, a former consultant for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), tweeted: "If people don't call him out, then we're enabling him. We are a big tent party, or this party is not mine anymore. We should embrace every person regardless of their orientation."
And Lawrence Shaheen Jr., a Republican lawyer and consultant, said, "Our @NCGOP is a big tent party that should be accepting of any and all people regardless of their sexual orientation. Period. End of discussion. Jesus would not have wanted it any other way."
Robinson denied that he's bigoted and said to those offended by his remarks he's "sorry they feel contrary to the way I feel in a spiritual aspect."
"This issue, as it is being raised right now, I believe, is an attempt to intimidate people into not speaking up against it being introduced into the classroom," he said.