The Republican nominee for attorney general of North Carolina is under fire for urging supporters to help keep the state "straight."
State Sen. Buck Newton's remarks added fuel to an already heated controversy in the Tar Heel State over a new law that bars transgender people from using school and government restrooms that align with their gender identity as opposed to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
The law strongly supported by Newton, which also nullifies any municipal law that expands the rights of gays, lesbians and transgender people based on their LGBT status, has sparked boycotts against North Carolina by businesses, performing artists and other state governments.
"Go home, 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," Newton said during a Monday rally in Raleigh, the state capital, in favor of the new bathroom law, HB2.
While "straight" commonly refers to heterosexuals, Newton later reportedly told a local newspaper that the comment he made meant "keep men out of the ladies' room."
Earlier in his speech Newton had cited the alleged risk of sexual predators attacking women and children in bathrooms as a result of a Charlotte, North Carolina, city law — which was overturned by HB2 — and other legislation elsewhere that has allowed transgender people to use the restrooms of their choice.
North Carolina's Democratic Party and Newton's Democratic opponent for the attorney general's office seized on his remarks about keeping the state "straight," claiming that Newton had animus against all lesbian, gay and transgender people.
"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 on the heels of Newton's speech, The News & Observer in Raleigh reported.
State Sen. Josh Stein, who is the Democratic nominee for attorney general, on his Facebook page wrote of Newton's comments: "This is wrong & hurtful."
"Sen. Newton's comments simply have no place in North Carolina," Stein wrote. "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."
But Newton told the News & Observer that his urging supporters of the bathroom law to help keep Norh Carolina "straight" had nothing to do with homosexuals.
"I don't know how they made that connection," he said. "I never mentioned anything about homosexuality."