CRUMPLER-Melissa Edmondson walked into the lion’s den Tuesday evening as the keynote speaker for the Ashe County Republican party’s monthly meeting at Shatley Springs restaurant.
Edmondson has not made her support of Bernie Sanders a secret. She has also openly displayed her disdain for the controversial House Bill 2 legislation.
To some county Republicans, it might appear odd that a party rooted in deep conservative principles would choose someone that stands at polar opposites on key issues but to newly elected Ashe County Republican Chairman David Desautels, the decision to allow Edmondson speak to his fellow party members was a logical one.
Following the board of commissioners decision to adopt a symbolic resolution in support of House Bill 2, which bans those from using public restrooms that does not correspond with their biological sex, Desautels commented on the need to hear from both sides on this and other issues.
“We Republicans know how we feel about the issues,” he said. “Let’s get someone different and honestly give them a forum to speak.”
He went on to say that public discourse is broken in the country.
“Melissa and I have had this conversation,” Desautels said on the decision to allow Edmondson to speak. “She texted me recently and asked what I hope to get out of this. I said, ‘In my wildest dreams, that people would find out about this do the similar thing. Not just Republicans, but also Democrats.”
Edmondson wasted little time in delving into her points on HB2, but did add a caveat.
“I know some of you are thinking I’m here to give inflammatory speech or ruffle feathers, but that’s not what this about,” said Edmondson.”The fact that I’m standing here before you says a lot about what we are able to accomplish. Deep down, we are all the same. We want what’s best for Ashe County. We want what’s best for our country.”
Edmondson said the law was a “knee jerk reaction” in response to a city ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council days before. She added 200 other cities have passed similar measures.
Furthermore, Edmondson said the law also prevented other local governments from passing other discriminatory protections ordinances, which deeply disturbed her.
“This bill goes far behind transgender bathrooms,” she said.
She also identified what she called a “staggering amount of money” the state has lost or stands to lose over passage of the bill. The overarching message of her speech was the need to reach middle ground and see each others as equals.
“If there’s only one thing you take from this meeting it is this: They are not they. We are we. I want to drop distinctions. I want to drop separations. I want us to realize we are all the same. Let’s drop the labels,” she said. “There is no middle ground on equal rights.”
Edmondson addressed how religion has also played into the conversation.
“Do not preach about Chritian love if you are not going to participate in it,” she said.
She was met with criticism from her counterparts. One person challenged points made by Edmondson that a convicted sex offender was behind the Charlotte transgender movement.
She said that not all worthy movements are started by the right person.
“We have Interstates because of Hitler,” she said as an example. “I’m not a fan of Hitler, but I drive on his Interstates.”
Others said unisex bathrooms could solve the issue.
Edmondson fired back there’s not enough of unisex bathrooms to completely address the issue.
The question and answer session following Edmondson’s speech did become somewhat contentious and heated at times although a civil tone prevailed.
Desautels did have to stop the session at least once to remind party members the purpose of the evening was not to host a debate, and Edmondson was treated to a rousing applause following her speech.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.