LANSING – Dave Agema, Michigan national GOP committeeman, last week made a series of hateful and ignorant remarks about people living with HIV and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. In response to the media’s coverage, Agema emailed supporters insisting his comments were taken out of context. Transcripts now show that his remarks do indeed justify the hundreds of emails that have been sent calling for his resignation and the growing group of Republicans denouncing his remarks.
A transcript released by The Herald Palladium provides his remarks verbatim, “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.”
While it is true that San Francisco passed an ordinance attempting to require the airlines extend domestic partnership benefits, a federal judge found that the city could not require the airlines to offer health and welfare benefits, the three carriers volunteered to implement them. The judge did uphold the city’s right to require the airlines to provide bereavement leave, family and medical leave and spousal flight discounts to employees’ domestic partners. Dave Agema’s story is factually inaccurate and another example of Agema exaggerating the truth and attacking a minority to advance his own political agenda.
Agema went on to offer an example of his allegations in action, “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.”
Agema went on to acknowledge the growing discontent with his outdated mentality, “I took flak within our own party because of the traditional marriage and the homosexual marriage within our party. It’s in our book, folks. I not only took flak in Michigan, I took flak throughout the United States. Because they are very organized. I took flak from England. I took flak from Germany. I took flak from the Netherlands.”
Equality Michigan, a statewide anti-violence and advocacy organization, advocates for the rights of LGBT individuals and people living with HIV. The organization has called on Republican leadership to denounce Agema’s remarks and continues to seek his removal as a committeemember of the Republican Party. Anyone opposed to Agema’s remarks can take action online: http://eqmi.us/agema13
Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, said Tuesday that Agema’s remarks “are extreme and discriminatory.” His spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, “We shouldn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind. There shouldn’t be room for that in any political party. We must make sure everyone is treated with respect and civility.”
Ari Adler, spokesperson for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, said in an email, “Speaker Bolger is understanding when someone speaks about their faith, but he is disgusted when someone demonizes another person for any reason.”
“The hundreds of emails being sent by Equality Michigan members are having an impact. The shock and repulsion felt by Michigan’s citizens, gay and straight, democrat and republican, in response to Agema’s poor excuse for leadership is being read loud and clear. We need to keep the pressure on. There is bipartisan support in Michigan for bringing Dave Agema’s time in Michigan politics to an end. Republican leaders are making moves to send the right message, that Agema’s bigotry makes him the voice of panic and ignorance more fitting of the 1980s and not the future of their party,” said Emily Dievendorf, managing director of Equality Michigan.
Paul Welday, 14th District GOP chair, said that Republicans ignoring Agema’s anti-LGBT hate speech do so “at our own peril.” He wrote an email to Republican activists that “Again, it would seem we have another political firestorm created by comments from our National Committeeman.” Welday said he wrote the email after he was “inundated” with “emails from people across Michigan protesting Dave’s remarks in the most strenuous of terms.”
Dievendorf added, “In addition to elected leaders coming forward to call Agema’s remarks out for the hate speech it is and evidence surfacing that he lied about American Airline’s motives for extending healthcare benefits to domestic partners, now healthcare professionals are pointing out that his statements about HIV were both factually flawed and harmful to public health interests. Agema is not only harming the very party he claims to love, but the very public he has pledged to serve. Dave Agema has been negligent in his obligations as a true and honest representative of his party and makes a mockery of public service.”
In response to an inquiry by reporter Todd Heywood, the Michigan Department of Community Health addressed Agema’s claims, “In terms of Michigan data, these comments are not reflective of what our data shows. The prevalence of HIV in Michigan has steadily increased, since persons with HIV are living longer.” Adding, “Any time there is misinformation about any illness or disease being spread, it hinders the public’s ability to protect themselves and make informed decisions.”