Under the Dome

GOP candidate criticized for ‘keep our state straight’ rally comment explains

Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson, the Republican candidate for state Attorney General, encouraged attendees at a pro-HB2 rally to “fight to keep our state straight.”

His comment supporting a law limiting LGBT discrimination protections was widely seen as homophobic. In an interview Newton said that “keep our state straight” means “keep men out of the ladies’ room.”

He told the rally crowd Monday, “Tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight.”

The new law, in part, nullified a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. Newton and other supporters say it would have put women and girls in danger of assault by sex offenders.

Other parts of the law cancel local ordinances that call for contractors to pay above minimum wage and ban workers from filing employment discrimination suits in state court.

The state Democratic Party said Newton’s comments were gay-bashing, and called for an apology.

“One of the Republican sponsors of HB 2 just admitted the real purpose of the law: to make North Carolina unwelcoming to LGBT people,” state Democratic Party spokesman Dave Miranda said in a statement.

Josh Stein of Raleigh, Newton’s Democratic opponent in the Attorney General’s race, called Newton’s comments unacceptable in a Facebook post.

“Sen. Newton’s comments simply have no place in North Carolina,” the post says. “Our state is home to all types of people, which helps make us great. We are stronger when we embrace inclusion, not intolerance; when we have faith in our commonalities, not fear of our differences.

Hostility towards people who are gay or lesbian is wrong and, coming from someone who seeks to become the top law enforcement officer of North Carolina, absolutely unacceptable.”

In an interview, Newton said he didn’t say anything about gays.

“I don’t know how they made that connection,” he said. “I never mentioned anything about homosexuality.”