On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that essentially banned the recognition of gay marriage that was already banned in the state and the recognition of heterosexual and gay domestic partnerships. Dr. Michael Alan Cotton, and his young son were electioneering for "Vote FOR Marriage NC," the coalition which supported the constitutional amendment, at the Highland Recreation Center in Hickory, North Carolina. Among passing out business card size literature encouraging voters to vote for the amendment, Dr. Cotton also engaged in conversations with a number of voters as is his constitutional right to freedom of speech.
One unidentified voter approached Dr. Cotton and the two had a conversation about what the purpose of the amendment was to them. The voter made the statement, loudly: "I can't stand this faggot on faggot shit" as he walked off to go vote. Dr. Cotton screamed back: "Me either, that's why you should vote for the amendment, sir!" Dr. Cotton's remarks was rebuked by both a minister who was working with him electioneering, as well as members of the opposing point-of-view. Buddy Fisher, a minister working with Dr. Cotton to encourage voters to vote for the amendment, responded: "I do not agree with that. We disagree on the amendment but that is not called for. I apologize on their behalf."
Reports have also been received that Dr. Cotton has engaged patients, patients families and employees of the facilities that he works at concerning the issue. Dr. Cotton has been overheard berating known gay or lesbian employees with remarks like: "You gays need to learn to read your Bible," and "This is exactly whats wrong with America, man-on-man and woman-on-woman is disgusting." These remarks were made openly in the presence of patients and their families. Other employees have said that Dr. Cotton approached them aggressively with remarks like "I want to educate you on this amendment," going on to state that voting against the amendment is essentially voting against God. These employees say that Dr. Cotton has created a hostile working environment and many fear reporting his actions publicly because of retributions against them, since no protections exist for LGBT employees in North Carolina.
Dr. Cotton is employed as a physician with Palliative CareCenter & Hospice of Catawba Valley, Frye Regional Medical Center and Blue Ridge Healthcare (which operates Grace Hospital & Valdese Hospital). In his duties at these facilities, he encounters a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients that he is responsible for providing quality healthcare to save or sustain their life, as well as fellow employees that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
Dr. Cotton's remarks threaten the quality of care he can provide to LGBT patients or to LGBT family members of patients. His remarks display a great amount of hatred and bigotry that should not be tolerated or allowed by a physician -- crossing the fine line of free speech and showing the ugliness of his prejudices. That is why we are calling on these entities to terminate Dr. Cotton's employment because of the threat he poses to our families and friends; as well as the hostile environment he has created by taking political and religious propaganda into an environment that should be neutral. We are also calling on the North Carolina Medical Board and The Joint Commission to launch an investigation into ethics violations, as a result of Dr. Cotton's actions & words. His actions distract healthcare employees from providing quality care, which place our families and friends at risk; and create an environment not sutable for healing & care for those sick or injured -- especially for those suffering from terminal illness.
It is important to note that Dr. Cotton's mother, Betty Anne Cotton, is the chair of a Catawba County organization that petitioned Catawba County's Board of Commissioners to endorse the amendment because the "homosexual community threatens the sanctity of marriage and is a threat to national security." Hate is indeed a learned value.