'We are at war': Anti-trans activists lock arms with North Carolina GOP gubernatorial frontrunner
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson praised Moms for Liberty, a conservative group that opposes transgender rights, as the modern-day equivalent of Betsy Ross, Rosie the Riveter and Rosa Parks.
Members of the group, who are in Raleigh to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly for legislation prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in female sports and to ban gender reassignment surgery for minors, greeted Robinson by saying, “We love you, Mark!”
“And I love you,” Robinson responded.
Robinson addressed the conservative group, which has pushed culture-war battles at local school boards across the country by assailing pandemic restrictions and demanding book bans while building electoral power, during a reception today at his official residence. Among the speakers was a lobbyist for Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing Christian legal group that one prominent extremism watchdog has publicly designated as a "hate group."
Reps. Ken Fontenot and John Torbett, two Republican lawmakers, also spoke at the event.
Several speakers at the event struck martial tones, including Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich, who traveled from Florida to attend.
“We are at war,” Descovich said. “But you have heard that.”
Nathan Street, a former music teacher who resigned from a public elementary school in Greensboro while under investigation for allegedly physically abusing students, was in attendance. During his speech, he asked the Moms for Liberty members to "give me your best muscle pose." When they obliged he enthused, "Whew, look at them guns down there! I love it. I love it."
Flexing his biceps, Street added, "When it's all said and done, you're able to do this, and you're able to say, 'Bring it, pal. I'm ready to fight you and I'm ready to take you down to the mat, whatever I've got to do to win."
Robinson, who is considered the Republican front-runner in North Carolina's 2024 gubernatorial election, compared the nation's current political climate to that of the Civil War.
“I know people say we’re more divided now than at any time in our history,” Robinson said. “I would remind those individuals that we fought a civil war. And even though we were divided not just along political lines, not just along geographic lines, we were actually on opposite sides of battle killing each other on battlefields. Blood was shed. More blood than has ever been shed by Americans in our history was shed during our civil war because we were fighting over those essential rights — states’ rights, the rights of individuals, liberty itself. We came out of that war stronger than ever.”
Robinson rocketed to recognition in 2018 when he addressed the Greensboro City Council in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolhigh school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
The viral video of his populist appeal for gun rights earned him the keynote speaker slot at the National Rifle Association convention and made him a darling of conservative media. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2020, with no prior political experience.
Since his election as lieutenant governor, Robinson’s anti-LGBTQ statements from church pulpits have generated outrage.
In June 2021, he told the congregation in Seagrove, N.C., that LGBTQ “issues have no place in a school,” adding, “There’s no reason anybody in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth.”
More recently, during a sermon in a church in Mooresville, N.C., outside of Charlotte, Robinson mocked churches that are welcome LGBTQ people, saying, “You see so many pastors right now will say in their pulpits, ‘I don’t want this church to be political, I don’t want to talk about politics that have anything to do with religion. We used to be religious in this church, and we’re going to love, we’re going to accept everybody, and we’re going to accept everything. I’m going to fly a rainbow flag out front and spit right in the face of God.’”
A sign propped against the porch at the lieutenant governor’s residence read, “We do not co-parent with the government.”
Across the street from the event at Robinson's residence, Blue Miller, one of roughly a dozen protesters, taunted the Moms for Liberty activists while the chief state government lobbyist for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom spoke.
“You say you’re not co-parenting with the government — at the governor’s mansion lawn and you’re going to speak to the General Assembly?” said Miller, who is a transgender person. “You guys are trying to take this state and run it. I mean, you all are trying to be the state. You’re schmoozing with the state.”
Alliance for Defending Freedom, which defended a Colorado baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple before the Supreme Court in 2018, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The watchdog group, which tracks extremism, asserts that Alliance Defending Freedom has “supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad,” citing the group’s support for a Texas law criminalizing sodomy, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003.
The Alliance Defending Freedom disputes the characterization, contending it “has never supported the passage of law criminalizing homosexuality.”
Asked if Robinson was comfortable with Alliance Defending Freedom’s positions, John W. Waugh, a spokesperson told Raw Story in an email: “The Lt. Governor has said time and time again that he will defend the rights of ALL North Carolinians.”
The budding alliance between Robinson and Moms for Liberty echoes the group’s alignment with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to seek the presidency in 2024 alongside at least several other Republican candidates, most notably former President Donald Trump.
Moms for Liberty helped mobilize the activist base for DeSantis’ successful reelection campaign last year. DeSantis aligned with the group’s “parent’s rights” messaging, and spoke at its most recent national summit in Tampa in July 2022. This year, Moms for Liberty has announced that Robinson will be part of the speaker lineup at the upcoming national summit in Philadelphia in July, and the group is expected to play a similar role in his gubernatorial campaign.
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