Those were the words of State Representative Deb Butler – one of four openly LGBTQ state legislators in North Carolina – who stood at her desk to protest yet another violation of North Carolina’s democratic process.
Moments earlier, while many lawmakers were attending a September 11th memorial service alongside Governor Roy Cooper, the Republican-led House voted to override the Governor’s veto of a budget bill, blindsiding Democratic lawmakers. Why? The legislature and the Governor had come to an impasse over negotiations to expand Medicaid and give public school teachers a pay raise. Governor Cooper blasted the move as “trickery, deception, and lies”.
Democratic legislators were promised by Republican leaders that there would not be any votes on a day in which communities around the country come together for reflection and remembrance.
Chaos ensued, as Rep. Butler continued to challenge House Speaker Tim Moore and fellow Republican legislators. “This is a tragedy. This is a travesty of the process and you know it!”
After the day concluded, Victory Institute caught up with Rep. Butler, as her act of courage began to make national news:
“I thought to myself: ‘Where is the decency, sense of commonality and respect for the institution? When I got back to my office, I looked out the window and over at the flags at half-staff, and I thought to myself: ‘What have they done?’”
Rep. Butler sighed and then explained why she chose to speak out.
“We must be hyper-vigilant. The things that happen in these statehouses are arguably more damaging than what happens at the federal level. There are people who died in North Carolina because these guys won’t expand Medicaid. Instead of working with our side, they resort to trickery and lies.”
In an era where Americans are turned off by hyper-partisanship and incivility, Rep. Butler reminds us why we must fight back.
“We are all becoming painfully aware of how fragile democracy is, and it is going to take a generation to restore our institutions and reverence for integrity and decency in our political process. We cannot become complacent.”
Representative Deb Butler is one of 752 LGBTQ elected officials currently serving in the U.S. For more information, please visit Victory Institute’s Out for America map!