[CORRECTION: The original version of this post erroneously identified Richardson as a Republican. He is a Democrat. Ethics Alarms apologizes for the error. As far as the assessment of the conduct goes, I do not believe it makes any difference, however.]
Billy Richardson’s rational-sounding, remorseful, full-throated endorsement of diversity and respect for LGBT Americans is the most disgusting and damning piece of political weaseldry I have ever seen, and, I desperately hope, ever will see. This man voted for the new North Carolina law that validates oppression against gays and transgender individuals, and now “upon prayer and reflection,’ suddenly sounds like Dan Savage on a polite day. The law is a travesty, he says. It undermines the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, he says. I agree with him, but why did he vote for the bill in the first place, and why is he suddenly a passionate human rights advocate now?
I can answer both questions, because they have the same answer. Both his vote and his sudden reversal are the result of having no principles, not integrity, no core beliefs, no courage, no honesty, and no business holding high office. The law was not mysterious: it is blatant in its objective and philosophy. Voting for such a bill is signature significance: no one who has any respect of regard for LGBT citizens, their families, or the Constitution under which they live would consider voting for such a law, unless the official voting just casts his votes according to where he senses the winds are blowing, and regards politics as a game of profit, like playing the stock market. Once the law provoked violent opposition and the likelihood that the 1) the state would lose revenue and jobs and 2) the fools who voted for such a despicable measure would pay a dear price, Richardson was suddenly filled with contempt for those “who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda.” You know, like him.
“Instead of recognizing the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, HB2 gives green light to this discrimination in housing, employment and other areas,” he writes. “To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, we must never make any group of citizens a stranger to the laws of their own state.”
Gee, who sent that quote to him, God? He does tell us he was praying about this, after all. Boy, Richardson is quite a walking advertisement for the power of prayor! Just like that, BOOM!, his entire political, sexual and civil rights philosophy changed, and his favorite songs became “Kumbaya,” “We Shall Overcome,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “YMCA.”
Richardson is insulting his state’s citizens by showing that he regards them as gullible fools, and perhaps they are. I know that the foes of the bill will be happy to use him now as a politician who, mirabili dictu, has seen the light, even though he has outed himself as a cowardly, principle-free liar.
Does one of his bigoted colleagues who will fight like a rat to defend this awful law deserve more respect than Richardson? Absolutely! Richardson is the soldier who will switch sides as soon as it is clear that his own side is losing. He is the epitome of what Donald Trump’s supporters believe all politicians are–soulless, untrustworthy, craven, glib and able to wrap themselves in any disguise for a single purpose: their personal profit and survival. Such politicians are useless to anyone, and the scourge of democracy.
It is Richardson’s nauseating piety and facility with diversity and minority rights rhetoric that is so damning. It is as if he just had the anti-discrimination costume on a different shelf in his closet from the religious liberty outfit, and swapped one out for the other.
Here is his whole, calculated, shamelessly expedient apologia. Notice that he references, in addition to God, his parents, his upbringing, diversity, his training as a lawyer and “doing the right thing.” Oddly, he couldn’t muster any of these heartfelt sentiments in a speech to the floor to persuade his colleagues to vote against the bill before it was passed.
By enacting House Bill 2, the legislature did the wrong thing. I made the wrong vote and we must now make it right.
My parents raised me to avoid any rush to judgment and to consider the consequences of my decisions. They stressed to me that I will make mistakes but, when made, never, never compound a mistake by sitting silent and failing to own up to the error.
Upon prayer and reflection, I have come to realize that I need to take action now. I will not be silent and allow North Carolina’s values to be undermined by the travesty that is HB2.
As a lawyer, I have stood with the defenseless because our Constitution says – actually demands – that all Americans have basic rights and, by protecting those rights, we can all truly share in the blessings of being an American.
Since our hasty vote on HB2, I have been haunted by the fact that in one rushed action, I undermined a lifetime of fighting against those who would demonize a group of citizens to gain political advantage and to advance an unjust agenda.
Instead of recognizing the right to be free of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation, HB2 gives green light to this discrimination in housing, employment and other areas. To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, we must never make any group of citizens a stranger to the laws of their own state.
Because of HB2, we now live in a state that has closed our state courts to citizens who suffer discrimination for practicing their Christian faith or other religious beliefs, or because of their race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability. HB2 prevents local governments from enacting laws that respond to the concerns of their constituents.
HB2 also costs our state and our citizens jobs – high-paying, life-enriching jobs – that may now to go South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia or other states that have not taken this divisive path.
I call on my fellow legislators, the speaker, the president pro tem and the governor to repeal this hurtful, overreaching and unnecessary law. When the legislature reconvenes, I will support legislation toward that end.
In America and in the Old North State, we celebrate diversity, we don’t condemn it. In North Carolina we defend people’s equal protection under our laws, we don’t diminish them. In North Carolina, we do the right thing, even when it is hard.
Let’s do what we North Carolinians do when we are at our best and choose restraint over raw emotion. Let’s choose local government and let it be truly accountable to its citizens. Let’s choose rational, deliberative action and enact a law that accomplishes only what we intended to do. Let’s not end North Carolina’s history of moderation. Let’s admit we were wrong and actually fix our real problems.
You can’t fix a wrong until you acknowledge a mistake. I was wrong and I will stand with all North Carolinians who dream of fulfilling the words of the official toast for our Old North State, “where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”
I’ve been trying to think of a movie character who displayed Richardson’s despicably flexible character. The closest I could come up with is Fred MacMurray’s Lt. Tom Keefer, the craven naval officer in “The Caine Mutiny” who incites the other officers to take command away from a battle fatigued captain (Humphrey Bogart), and when his comrades are tried for mutiny, testifies that he had no involvement in the episode.
I think I’d vote for Keefer over Richardson, though.