PINEHURST, N.C. — Multiple North Carolina state representatives are demanding that Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican, resign after a video surfaced showing him describing the LGBTQ community as "filth."
The video, first shared by Right Wing Watch, a project of the progressive advocacy group People For the American Way, shows Robinson speaking at the Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove during a visit in June, local NBC affiliate WRAL reported.
"I'm saying this now, and I've been saying it, and I don't care who likes it: Those issues have no place in a school. There's no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth," he said.
He added: "And yes, I called it filth. And if you don't like it that I called it filth, come see me and I'll explain it to you. It's time for us to stop letting these children be abused in schools, and it's not going to happen till the people of God stand up and demand different, same ones that established those schools to begin with."
One of the words Robinson used — "transgenderism" — was adopted by anti-transgender activists to make being transgender sound like a condition, according to the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD.
John Wesley Waugh, a spokesperson for Robinson, said in an email that the lieutenant governor's comments "refer to education."
“Topics surrounding transgenderism and homosexuality should be discussed at home and not in public education," Waugh said. "We must focus on reading, writing, and mathematics in North Carolina. Our students have struggled with these topics even before the pandemic. Our primary focus needs to be helping our students succeed, not on topics that should be discussed at home.”
When asked whether Robinson has a response to criticism that his comments were anti-LGBTQ regardless of the context, Waugh said Robinson "affirms every individual’s Constitutional right to identify or express themselves in anyway they desire."
He added, "He is the Lieutenant Governor for all North Carolinians and will fight for and protect the rights of all citizens. His comments were referring to teaching about these topics in the classroom, not about individuals of the LGBTQ community."
Robinson is second in command in the state and would fill in should Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, leave the state or his position. Robinson narrowly defeated Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley in 2020, with 51.6 percent of the vote compared to Holley's 48.4 percent.
In a statement emailed to NBC News Friday, Jordan Monaghan, Cooper's press secretary, called Robinson's comments "abhorrent."
“North Carolina is a welcoming state where we value public education and the diversity of our people. It’s abhorrent to hear anyone, and especially an elected official, use hateful rhetoric that hurts people and our state’s reputation,” the statement reads.
Some state senators have taken a harder line and are demanding that Robinson resign, calling his remarks discriminatory.
Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat representing North Carolina's 37th District — which includes the state's most populous city, Charlotte — condemned Robinson's comments in a series of tweets on Thursday and Friday.
"There's no debate here. This is open discrimination. It is completely unacceptable," Jackson wrote, in part. "Mark Robinson should resign."
Jackson, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2022, added that Robinson's comments are part of a pattern. He said he's made openly "hateful and discriminatory" comments about LGBTQ people and other minorities in the past, linking to an article from local news outlet the Cardinal & Pine.
The article includes 2016 comments that Robinson made after the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 patrons — many of them young LGBTQ people — were killed and dozens more wounded before the shooter died in a shootout with law enforcement.
"First, let me say that I pray for the souls of all those killed, healing for all those wounded, and comfort for the family members of the terrorist shooting in Orlando," Robinson wrote on his Facebook page at the time. "However, homosexuality is STILL an abominable sin and I WILL NOT join in 'celebrating gay pride' nor will I fly their sacrilegious flag on my page. Sorry if this offends anyone, but I’m not falling for the media/pop culture 'okey-doke.'"
Robinson also spoke about the trans community at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ two months ago. After condemning abortion, Robinson said there's something else he "isn't supposed to say."
"There ain't but two genders," he said, about two hours and fifteen minutes into video of the speech. "Ain't nothing but men and women ... You can go to the doctor and get cut up. You can go down to the dress shop and get made up. You can go down there and get drugged up, but at the end of the day, you're just a drugged up, dressed up, made up, cut up, man or woman. You ain’t changed what God put in you — that DNA. You can’t transcend God’s creation."
He added that "if there is a movement in this country that is demonic, and that is full of the spirit of antichrist, it is the transgender movement."
He also suggested that people who don't know what gender they are "go around the corner, around here in the back, drop your pants, whatever you got on, and I can show you what you are," or have blood taken.
State Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat representing the state's 16th District, which includes Raleigh and Durham, also called for Robinson to resign.
"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," Nickel wrote on Twitter Friday.
Kendra Johnson, the executive director of Equality NC, an LGBTQ nonprofit, said the group condemns Robinson's "dangerous rhetoric."
“At a time when LGBTQ people, especially those with multiple layers of marginalization, need a supportive state, Robinson offered transphobia and homophobia instead," Johnson said in an email. "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.”
LGBTQ advocates have said that views like Robinson's don't represent the majority of North Carolinians. So far this year, 10 municipalities have passed measures that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in public accommodations, employment and more.
A 2019 poll from Public Policy Polling found that 67 percent of voters in North Carolina support such legislation, with 19 percent in opposition.
Voters diverge more when broken down by political party. More than three-quarters of Democrats in the state support nondiscrimination legislation, while 12 percent oppose it. Among Republicans in North Carolina, those figures are 50 percent and 32 percent, respectively.
Allison Scott, the director of impact and innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group based in North Carolina, said Robinson's comments remind her of the insults the LGBTQ community regularly endured a decade ago.
“They are shocking in their brazen homophobia and transphobia and are as unacceptable now as they were 10 years ago," she said. "Our state has been on a journey, and more than a dozen cities and counties have successfully passed protections for LGBTQ people. It’s time for all North Carolinians to come on this journey toward a future where no one faces discrimination or harassment because of who they are."
Robinson's comments specifically addressed LGBTQ-inclusive classrooms — a topic that has recently joined other education culture wars, with more school districts banning pride symbols and flags. Though, in recent years, advocates have called on educators to make an effort to be more openly supportive of LGBTQ people — whether that’s by including prominent LGBTQ figures in lessons or by displaying a Pride flag in the classroom — because they say it can benefit LGBTQ youth.
One 2019 survey from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that queer youth with at least one accepting adult in their life have a 40 percent lower risk of attempting suicide.