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    The Impact of North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s Deeply Disturbing Words

    By John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney–

    The setting was a special service at the Upper Room Church of God, a Pentecostal church in Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 4, 2021. At the pulpit was North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, whom Donald Trump described last month as “Martin Luther King on steroids,” declaring that Robinson was, in fact, “better than Martin Luther King.”

    The Lieutenant Governor delivered a bombast, which included a sweeping broadside against the trans community: “If there’s a movement in this country that is demonic and that is full of … the spirit of antichrist, it is the transgender movement.” The absurdity of Robinson’s scurrilous claim reminds us of Vladimir Putin’s adding the “international LGBT social movement and its structural units” to Russia’s list of extremist and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda late last month.

    The Lieutenant Governor also childishly mocked trans people, revealing his utter ignorance of their experience and evidence-based medicine and taunted the press to make sure they got down every word of it: 

    “Here’s something else I’m not supposed to say: Ain’t but two genders … . 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 are just a drugged up, dressed up, made up, cut up man or woman. You ain’t changed what God put in you, that DNA.”

    North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson

    Turning then to LGBTIQ education in schools, the Lieutenant Governor declared “two plus two don’t equal transgender,” and exhorted schools to stop teaching students “how to go to hell,” adding for good measure, “yeah, I said it, and I mean it.”

    Imagine a queer child, brought to church by their parents, sitting in the pews at the service. Not only would they hear the Lieutenant Governor’s condemnation of them from the pulpit, but the video reveals they would have seen church leaders behind him and to his side, smiling, laughing, applauding, gesturing, and raising their arms in endorsement of his words. What would that child think and feel? What do countless other LGBTIQ youth and adults think and feel when they hear similar attacks?

    Sadly, we know all too well. In 2014, transgender youth Leelah Alcorn in her public suicide note calling for the world to stand up for transgender people recounted how “[I] go to church each week and feel like s–t because everyone there is against everything I live for.” Referring to remarks akin to what Robinson said, Alcorn implored: “Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate themself. That’s exactly what it did to me.”

    Hard data documents the terrible toll that such harmful rhetoric and the slew of anti-LGBTIQ bills passed with lightning speed in Republican-controlled states is taking on LGBTIQ youth. Last month, The Washington Post released an in-depth analysis of FBI crime data that revealed that, in states that have enacted anti-LGBTIQ legislation, “the number of hate crimes on K–12 [school] campuses has more than quadrupled” since the beginning of the onslaught. North Carolina, with Robinson as Lieutenant Governor, is one of the states that has passed such laws.

    The Post further described how calls to LGBTIQ crisis lines have skyrocketed. Tellingly, data from the Rainbow Youth Project reveals that the subject most discussed by callers was the effects of the anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric and legislation, followed by bullying, religious/church groups, and the archconservative organization Moms for Liberty, which advocates against LGBTIQ inclusion in education and in favor of banning books with LGBTIQ content.

    The August 2021 Upper Room Church of God speech was not a one-off for Robinson. Speaking at another conservative church a couple months earlier, the Lieutenant Governor declared being LGBTIQ to be “filth,” reiterating in his next sentence to ensure no one missed it, “yes, I called it filth.”

    In March 2023, as Robinson was preparing to announce his candidacy for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, he doubled down again at yet another conservative church: “Yes, I said it. [It] makes me sick every time I see it—when I pass a church that flies that … rainbow flag, which is a direct, a direct spit in the face to God almighty.” He then linked his views to the country as a whole: “If this nation does not stop it, this nation is going to be in trouble.” Later in the speech, the Lieutenant Governor claimed that he knew why the Christian god had put him personally into the world: “God formed me because he knew there was going to be a time when God’s learning was going to be intolerable to the wicked.”

    Since Robinson chose not to be a minister but a politician, and an ambitious one at that, he surely conceives his political career to be part of his divine life purpose. That directly belies the claim he made at an October 2021 press conference that he keeps his “spiritual beliefs about transgenderism and homosexuality … completely separate from” his duties as lieutenant governor.

    A reporter at the press conference challenged him on this: “But how can that possibly be? You don’t stop being the lieutenant governor when you walk out of the door here. You are who you are wherever you are talking.” Another reminded Robinson that he had been introduced as the lieutenant governor at the churches.

    Online viewers of Robinson’s church speeches understood their political nature as well. For example, one viewer commented just last month: “Congratulations on winning the 2024 Primary! Hopefully we will have you as Governor of North Carolina. We need strong moral leadership so we can be proud of ou[r] state again. You will have my vote a[s] long as you need it!!”

    Ironically, Robinson’s inflammatory words could provide very useful evidence in court cases seeking to strike down anti-LGBTIQ legislation, such as those regarding gender-affirming care that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to take. Among matters at stake in those cases is the circuit court’s claims that mistreatment of transgender people is a thing of the past and that lawmakers today are not driven by anti-trans “animus” but are “fair-minded” and “review the evidence” in making their decisions on LGBTIQ issues. Lieutenant Governor Robinson’s words and attitudes show that nothing could be farther from the truth.

    As Leelah Alcorn departed the world ten years ago, she expressed her deep wish for transgender people to be “treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.” For Leelah, for Nex Benedict, for all at-risk LGBTIQ people, we must all work together until her wish is fulfilled.

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

    6/26 and Beyond
    Published on April 4, 2024