In a fiery speech October 29, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said he would not resign after making derogatory comments about the LGBTQ community weeks ago, just days after he indicated he might run for governor. Robinson spoke to a crowd of well over 1,000 people on Halifax Mall in Raleigh, just steps from the state legislative building, as part of a “Stand up for America” rally organized by Return America.

 The North Carolina-based group, according to its website, says its mission is to: “build a network of churches and individuals to educate, motivate and mobilize citizens in a united effort in promoting Judeo-Christian values; to educate and influence government in these principles upon which our state and nation were founded.”

Robinson was a top speaker at the event, in addition to attorney David Gibbs Jr. of the Christian Law Association and Ron Baity, Return America’s president and pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Baity, who introduced Robinson Friday morning, said many churches and pastors “welcome the possibility” of a Robinson run for governor.

“Lieutenant Governor (Robinson) has distinguished himself as a spiritual John the Baptist,” Baity said. “There’s some religious movements in the state who almost had a hysterical nervous breakdown when they heard that he might run for governor.” 

Speaking to a predominantly evangelical crowd, Robinson started his remarks by thanking God “for blessing this Christian nation.” “There are a lot of people out there that don’t like to hear that, but I reiterate my statement from before. If you don’t like it, nobody is holding you here,” Robinson said to loud cheers. “You can leave God’s country and we will not miss you.” 

Friday’s rally listed an array of causes to support, including law enforcement and military, “true American history” and “the unborn.” Other topics that came up during the rally included critical race theory, a legal framework that conservatives both in North Carolina and the country have claimed is being taught in classrooms; President Joe Biden’s handling of illegal immigration at the southern border; and the Second Amendment.

Those who came to hear Robinson included small children and school-aged kids gathered on the lawn outside the Legislative Office Building, which houses some state legislative offices. Rally-goers were outfitted in attire indicating support for Robinson and carrying signs backing him and his comments on LGBTQ people in recent weeks. 

Some participants also wore shirts supporting President Donald Trump, and waved “Blue Lives Matter” flags in support of law enforcement alongside American flags and at least one that read “Don’t Tread on Me.” Mark Walker, a former U.S. representative who is running against former Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Tedd Budd in next year’s U.S. Senate race, and state Sen. Carl Ford of Rowan County also attended. 

Walker expressed support for Robinson, despite his statements that “transgenderism” and “homosexuality” are “filth.” 

“What he was trying to focus on was putting the pressure on children that they’d get that gender doesn’t matter or they get [to] choose [and] make these decisions and, and I stand with him on that,” Walker said. “I believe God loves the LGBTQ community as much as he loves this community and I have no qualms with that.”

Robinson has been the focus of recent controversy for anti-LGBTQ comments made this summer at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove. Video of the comments surfaced this month, spurring calls for his resignation and regular protests denouncing his views. Robinson has said his comments have been “twisted,” but stood by them as other videos emerged with similar statements demeaning transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community. “The issue here that’s being driven, this narrative that’s being driven, that I have something against the LGBTQ+ community is absolutely false,” Robinson said earlier this month.

This story previously appeared in the Charlotte Observer.