RALEIGH, N.C. — Constituents of an eastern North Carolina state senator say his legislative assistant crossed the line when she said two weeks ago that LGBT equality was not a civil rights issue and said the devil had tormented a mother’s deceased gay son.
Audio & Video
An audio recording provided to qnotes details the conversation between the constituents and Carol Wilson. Portions of the conversation are available at the end of this article, along with video from Buck Newton’s Senate debate on the 2012 anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment.
“This is special legislation for special groups,” said Carol Wilson, a staffer for Republican state Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton (Johnston, Nash, Wilson), according to an audio recording of the conversation provided to qnotes. “They [state lawmakers] have power to pass laws, but they don’t pass morality. They can’t choose morality.”
“I don’t think it’s civil rights, because you’re not black,” Wilson added.
Rosemarie Walston was among those in the meeting on April 16, during a lobbying day organized by Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBT education and advocacy group working to pass a state employment non-discrimination bill this year.
Walston’s son, who was gay, died 10 years ago. Walston shared with Wilson her personal story about her son’s life and death.
“You did the best you knew how,” Wilson told the mother. “You cannot blame yourself. … If my child told me he or she [was gay] … I would love my child, but I could still love my child but not condone the lifestyle.”
Wilson later said the son’s experience was due to torment by the devil.
“Seriously, the enemy does the same thing to you and to me that he did to your son. He wants to throw our guilt and our shame and our faults in our face,” Wilson said. “That is the devil. If you believe in God you have to believe there is a devil and the devil does do that. He’s the one that torments us all. He doesn’t just torment just one person.”
Walston also claims Wilson implied her son was in hell. Walston said she told Wilson that, “I know my son has eternal life,” to which she said Wilson responded, “There are two kinds of eternal life.” That exchange is not recorded.
“It didn’t hit me until afterwards that she was telling me where my son was,” Walston told qnotes. “She was way out of place. She needs some sensitivity training or something.”
Mark Brown, another constituent attending the meeting, also shared his experiences as a gay man as he made the argument for employment protections.
Wilson rejected Brown’s call for increased legal protections.
“I can tell you story after story of people who have lost jobs or who were mistreated. And they weren’t because they were gay or lesbian but they got the boot … but we can’t make people do right,” Wilson responded. “I’m glad that you have accepted yourself. I accept you. I accept you just as you are. I’m just saying as far as legislation goes, that’s a very tough call, because they can’t make everybody do thus and so. It’s just the way life is.”
In a longer response to the constituents, Wilson said duty and obedience to God must come before civil rights protections:
Well I just want to say that God loves me and he loves you, but he also doesn’t care what I think. He doesn’t care what I want. He wants me to do what he wants and live for him. Even Jesus on the cross, Jesus said “Father, if you can, pass this cup from me.” But he didn’t take that cup from the Lord. The Lord suffered. And we are going to have suffer, too. It hurts not to get what I want. It hurts not to do what I want. I suffer. I don’t like to lay down my rights. I don’t like to deny myself. I don’t. I do not like that. But I think every human being, every human being has issues. We all have issues. We don’t get out of this world unscathed. We don’t. I have issues. Everybody does. And that’s why I say, because I love God, I can love people. And, yes, I don’t have to have laws. There are people that are gonna — because men are evil. Men are born evil. We are born in sin. And, we are the ones that choose whether we want to continue to do it our way or say, choose whether we want to continue to do it our way or say, God, I’m wrong, you’re right and I’m not going to ask you to get on my side, I’m going to get on your side and enjoy life and enjoy freedom, and not let anyone put you down or make you feel guilty or shameful. If you feel you are right, you shouldn’t be, you should not let the enemy put guilt and shame on you.
Advocate: No justification for discrimination
Brent Childers, executive director of the North Carolina-based advocacy group Faith In America, said in a statement today that Wilson’s comments showed a “profound level of rudeness, closed-mindedness and perversion of fellowship.”
“On the level of citizenry participation, the comments made by the staffer were terribly misguided. On a level of personal human interaction, the comments were painful and offensive,” Childers said. “This staffer felt justified in bringing pain to both Rosemarie and Mark because she apparently believes her religious perspective justifies causing harm to innocent people. I would hope this staffer soon will see it is time for her to embrace a much different religious perspective on gender orientation.”
Faith In America, a national organization that educates the public on the harms of anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry, said Wilson’s interaction with constituents further proves just how far right North Carolina’s legislature has gone this session and how far some lawmakers are willing to use religion to justify discrimination.
Earlier this session, a resolution supporting the adoption of an official state religion was introduced by Republican lawmakers, though House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) later put a stop to the resolution and effectively said it was “dead on arrival.”
“I would also hope that this staffer understands that laws that ensure fairness and equality for all its citizens cannot and should not be based on the religious perspective of any particular group,” Childers said.
Requests this morning for comment from Newton’s office were not returned at the time of publication. According to his staff, Newton was attending committee meetings before the Senate convened at 11 a.m.
But, Newton’s views on LGBT equality are well known.
Newton, a Wilson, N.C., attorney who has served two terms in the state Senate, was a staunch proponent of the state’s 2012 anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning marriage recognition for same-sex couples.
During a September 2011 debate on the amendment, Wilson said he was offended that the measure was being compared to Nazi Germany or to racist laws previously passed by state lawmakers.
“It never occurred to me that my belief in traditional marriage…is somehow akin to Nazi Germany, somehow this is akin to the crazy racial amendments that were put forward in the ’50s,” Newton said during debate.
“It is a shame that we have come to this point,” he added. “I wish that this did not have to be in the constitution in order to protect what we all know is a marriage. But, we have reached that point where our society has turned itself on its head and we have so many crazy judges and so many crazy lawyers, and I am one, that would challenge this fundamental bedrock of our society. And that’s what this amendment is about. We will let the people vote. They will decide. I pray to God the amendment passes the vote of the North Carolina public and one day, if society has changed its views as you say, that constitution can be changed again. I pray that day never comes.”
Audio and Video
Wilson: ‘I don’t think it’s civil rights…’
Wilson: The devil torments…
Wilson: ‘We have to suffer…’
Wilson: ‘Got the boot…’
Wilson: ‘The way life is…’
Newton debate on 2012 “Amendment One”