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Michigan GOP leadership rebuffs Agema

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2013

Two years ago, Michigan Representative Dave Agema (R – Grandville) sponsored a bill called the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act (real name) which was designed to do exactly that: probit the government closest to the people (cities, counties, library commissions) from enacting protections for the people (firemen, assessors, librarians). Specifically, it provided that “a public employer shall not provide medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer” unless they were the opposite sex.

And being a pretty despicable bunch, the Michigan GOP representatives passed it with a party-line vote (plus one Democrat) and Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law.

As the bill was an obvious violation of the US Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, this June a judge issued an injunction against its implementation. It is assumed that the bill is dead.

Well now Dave Agema is not longer in the state legislature. But at last year’s GOP state convention, the party decided that he was an ideal representative to send to the Republican National Central Committee, ousting their former party chair who had been a national RNC candidate but, apparently, just wasn’t batpoop nuts enough.

So now they have Dave Agema making news by trotting off to the Berrien County Republican Party Holiday Reception this week, and saying the following:

… I stand for traditional marriage, not homosexual ones. (audience applause) … the basic unit of government in society.

“When you tear the family apart, you tear the country apart. I worked with these individuals for almost 30 years with American (Airlines). I know what they do. I know what happened to American Airlines when San Francisco said we could not land in San Francisco and do business with American Airlines unless we paid same sex unmarried benefits.

“The pilots said, ‘Bologna. Don’t go there anymore.’

“Can’t do it. Too big a market. Can’t do it. Well, what happened? Say me and, what’s your name again, first name? Martha. I’m a flight attendant. You have AIDS. You come to me and say, ‘hey, tell them I’m your lover for the last six months.’ You get on our health care. American Airlines spends $400,000 before you die of AIDS. And he goes on to the next, and the next, and that’s what was happening.

“Folks, they want free medical because they’re dying between 38 and 44 years old. It’s a biggie. So, to me it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue. Traditional marriage is where it should be and that is in our platform, so people that are opposed on that issue within our party are wrong. It’s in our platform. (audience applause)”

Well that there’s a whole lot of crazy. Not a word of fact, but a great big serving of hot juicy crazy hate ladled over a holiday pastry. And the Berrien County GOP biddies just lapped it right up, burped, and asked for more.

But outside the context of hardcore party extremists in county committees, crazy hate just doesn’t sell very well anymore. And as his statements started hitting the blogs, normal folk were a bit shocked.

And though the party joyfully voted for the bill generated by Agema’s radical hatred, now the Michigan GOP politicians have began backpedaling. (MLive)

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said Wednesday that he respects religious beliefs that may not make room for gay marriage. “But I do not respect, and frankly am disgusted by, anyone who demonizes someone because of their sexual orientation,” he continued.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he had not heard Agema’s comments directly but had picked up on the basic tenor.

“He’s not speaking on behalf of me, or I think most of the people who call themselves Republicans, when he says stuff like this,” said Richardville. “It’s not the first time. Hate isn’t one of my values.”

Naturally, Log Cabin called for his resignation. Jason Watts, secretary of Allegan County’s Republican Party, has drafted a resolution that the state party (which meets this weekend) disavow those who “espouse demagogic rhetoric that is incendiary and unbecoming of civil discourse.”

And the Governor, who signed the anti-gay bill two years ago, now rebuffs Agema’s agenda. (MLive)

Snyder, the state’s top ranking elected Republican, “feels comments like that are unfortunate, discriminatory and that we can and must do better and make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” spokesman Sara Wurfel told MLive.

Wurfel was even more direct with the MIRS subscription news service, calling Agema’s remarks “extreme” and saying that there “shouldn’t be room for that in any political party, period.”

Just a week ago I discussed how the extra-special brand of crazy right-wing nutcases can be useful. And Agema is proving to be particularly so.

Michigan Republicans are seriously considering updating Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And Agema’s outburst couldn’t come at a better time.

This gives GOP members on the fence a clear choice, do they want to move along with the rest of the country in the direction of inclusion, respect, and equality, or do they want, like Dave Agema, to stay a pretty despicable bunch? Do they think that protecting gay employees in Michigan would result in Agema’s bizarre pipe-dream or to they reject his blatant bigotry?

Thanks to Dave Agema, they know that their constituents will be paying close attention.

Comments

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Joseph Singer
December 13th, 2013 | LINK

The man is a nasty POS.

Ben in Oakland
December 13th, 2013 | LINK

The republicans say they really aren’t that way, that Agema doesn’t speak for them.

Of course he speaks for them, That way they don’t have to say it themselves.

and he will speak for them until they positively denounce him and his message. This verbal hand wringing doesn’t qualify.

Lindoro Almaviva
December 14th, 2013 | LINK

May I make a suggestion? When we mention a case, can we at least link to the wikipedia page discussing that case? For some reason, for about 3 minutes I could not remember what was at the heart of Romer, even though I read From the closet to the courtroom just this year (yes, go figure)It would be very helpful if we do. That way we can, if we need to, do a quick refresher on the case and continue reading.

I would even say that anyone who is not LGBT, who come and reads about this stuff might find it helpful having that link so they can do a little reading and understand why the case is important and how it relates to what we are discussing.

Paul Douglas
December 14th, 2013 | LINK

Is that Agema’s wife or a call girl?
Just wonderin’.

Steve
December 14th, 2013 | LINK

The only reason there is any backpedaling is because they know it’s bad PR. Not because they disagree with it any of it. Same with almost any other sexist, homophobic or racist thing Republicans say all the time. Take Todd “legitimate rape” Akin for example. His opinion that you can’t get pregnant from rape is far more common among Republicans than one may think. And has been for a long time.

Timothy Kincaid
December 14th, 2013 | LINK

Steve,

You must know some rather unusual Republicans. The ones I know don’t say sexist, homophobic, or racist things all the time, nor do any of them believe you can’t get pregnant from being raped.

Nathaniel
December 16th, 2013 | LINK

I may be reading too much into Timothy’s writing, but I don’t think he is suggesting they do or do not believe in LGBT rights, but that, in their backpedaling, they might actually pass good bills that would otherwise be difficult to pass. No matter what they believe, they know not appearing reasonable is bad for business, so they cross the line into reasonableness.

Also, I second Lindoro Almaviva’s request. I thought I knew the case, but still had to look it up to be sure I had the correct context.

RexT
December 17th, 2013 | LINK

I’m retired from American Airlines and while I don’t remember this (apparently) former Pilot, I recall our having a small group of viciously anti-gay pilots. Fortunately, their attempts to derail American’s continued leadership in support of equal workplace protections and expansion of Benefits, failed. In fact, their behavior ultimately helped us move the Company as a whole along at a much faster pace. Obviously, people like him never give up, their self created superiority fuels their hatred.

Timothy Kincaid
December 17th, 2013 | LINK

RexT,

Do you recall if the pilot’s union (or whatever they have) took a position?

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