When the Leadership Sinks: State Rep. Larry Brown

By: Michael Matson

North Carolina State Representative Larry Brown called his leadership ability into question after telling the Winston-Salem Journal recently that the government should not spend money on “perverted lifestyles.”

The newspaper quoted the Republican lawmaker as saying, "I'm not opposed to helping a child born with HIV or something, but I don't condone spending taxpayers' money to help people living in perverted lifestyles."

Brown, who ran unopposed in the November election, clarified his position after his comments received criticism.  On Tuesday, the fourth term representative said he was not trying to say how people should lead their lives, but that the state has a higher priority to treat people who have diseases “with no fault of their own.” Brown also said he's not opposed to people with HIV or AIDS getting treatment, he just doesn’t think the government should pay for it. 


This is not the first time Brown has exhibited questionable leadership. Last October, Brown mocked house speaker Joe Hackney for receiving an award from Equality North Carolina at one of the gay rights group’s events. In an email sent to his Republican colleagues, Brown wrote, “I hope all the queers are thrilled to see him. I am sure there will be a couple legislative fruitloops there in the audience.” Brown's email made headlines and was even mentioned on SNL's "Weekend Update" segment.  SNL

What’s most concerning about Brown’s legislative authority over state health care funding is that his comments show a lack of understanding about disease in general. He argues that HIV and AIDS are caused by lifestyle choices, therefore treatment for those illnesses should not receive any government funding. While it's true that lifestyle choices may be the cause of contracting the HIV virus for some, Brown appears unaware that many illnesses are aided by, or result directly from, lifestyle choices. Following his own logic, Brown would support cutting treatment funding for individuals with cancer who sunbathed or smoked cigarettes. People with heart disease or diabetes who had unhealthy eating and exercise habits should also be denied care. Under Brown’s thinking, even individuals injured or paralyzed from participating in extreme sports should not receive government aid. One would hope our leaders are saddened by budgets cuts which negatively impact those in need of medical aid. Compassion is, after all,  a desirable leadership quality.

As someone who directly affects the lives of North Carolina residents, Larry Brown has the responsibility and civic duty to thoroughly examine all the facts involved before making any legislative decisions. Anyone unwilling to do so has no business serving the public. If Brown’s "lifestyle" comments are just veiled homophobia influencing his legislative decisions, that would also make him unqualified to function effectively in a leadership capacity. Brown does not have to like gay people. But as a public leader, it is his responsibility to set aside personal biases and make informed, fact-based decisions that are in the best interest of his constituents. And juvenille terms like "queer" and "fruitloops" should not be rolling off of the tongue of a person in a position of power and influence. Any North Carolina middle school student could logically ask why he or she should refrain from calling a classmate a queer when an adult elected official uses the term. Is Larry Brown the kind of public servant we want influencing the next generation of leaders?

If you wish to communicate thoughtfully with Rep. Larry Brown, his email address is [email protected]