CHARLOTTE — On a local radio program this morning, the No. 2 Republican leader of the North Carolina House of Representatives refused to answer whether he would support banning or limiting divorce. He also distanced himself from the language of anti-gay pastors he had invited to speak at the General Assembly preceding a vote last week to place an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the ballot in May.
The question came as host Mike Collins of WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” chatted with Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) and Equality North Carolina Interim Executive Director Alex Miller. Collins invited both on his show, after Miller had previously challenged Folwell to a public debate on the amendment.
The exchanges between Collins, Folwell and Miller were civil but heated, especially on the topics of divorce and bigotry.
“You have said marriage is every society’s foundation, that if government sanctions marriage that it should also protect marriage. If that is true, why not put a constitutional amendment on the ballot banning divorce,” Collins asked Folwell, citing high divorce rates in the country. “Wouldn’t it be more protective of the institution to ban divorce?”
Folwell responded, “The divorce rate in this state and in this country is horrific. I have as much concern about that as I do the defense of marriage.”
“Wouldn’t that be defense of marriage,” Collins asked.
Folwell agreed, with Collins asking yet again why Folwell hadn’t put that amendment on the ballot.
“Somebody has a right to do that,” Folwell replied.
“Why don’t you do it,” Collins asked.
After a more than five second pause, Folwell responded, “I don’t have an answer.”
The hour long conversation also hit on Folwell’s support of anti-gay pastors, who he and House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) invited into the legislative building for a press conference preceding last week’s vote on the amendment.
Miller called Folwell out on his alliance with the pastors: “You invited some pastors to come to the Legislative Building and speak from the podium which is paid for in part by the tax dollars of LGBT North Carolinians and those pastors have been quoted as saying…variously, that gay and lesbian North Carolinians are not ‘gay.’ That we’ve got to use terms like ‘deviant’ and ‘abomination’ and that homosexuality is a ‘death-style.’ That’s Patrick Wooden from Raleigh who you invited to come speak from the General Assembly and you stood next time as he spoke.”
Miller continued, “Another person you invited has been quoted talking about churches that are open and affirming to gay and lesbian people and he said, ‘Faggots across the nation heading churches. Homos on the pianos. Faggots in the choir. What kind of spirit is that leading the church?’ and about politicians who oppose this amendment, ‘They want that little one percent of faggots to go vote.’ You might not be a bigot but that is bigoted language and you invited that into the General Assembly Building which is paid for by tax dollars including the tax dollars of gay and lesbian North Carolinians, so either you agree with them and you are a bigot or you don’t agree with them and you invited them for political purposes and honestly I’m not sure which is worse.”
Collins challenged Folwell on the press conference and the language some of the pastors have been known to use. Folwell said he was simply giving the ministers a platform.
“These ministers felt like they didn’t have a voice,” Folwell said. “They felt like their own representatives from their own districts were not listening to them. They had some things to say and they wanted to have a press conference and that’s what we did.”
Collins countered, “So you’re saying that if somebody from the KKK wanted to be heard in the state house and got up and started talking about black people using the N-word no one would say anything, that no one would stop them?”
“I don’t accept what the ministers say, you understand,” Folwell fired back.
Listen to the audio (approx. 4 minutes 30 seconds) of the two exchanges below…[audio:WFAE_Folwell_Miller_excerpt.mp3]