LANSING — Members of the Washtenaw County delegation to the Michigan House — state Representatives Gretchen Driskell (D-Town), Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), David Rutledge (D-Superior Township) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) — together condemn Republican National Committeeman and former Rep. Dave Agema’s comments about members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The statements are not representative of the vast majority of Michiganders and cast the state in a bad light.
“When a leader of a state party makes comments like this it sends a terrible message to the rest of the world,” Driskell said. “Michigan would do better at attracting jobs and supporting our diverse workforce if ignorant statements like this were not made.”
At a recent Berrien County Republican Party event, Agema claimed that LGBT people die when they’re “between 30 and 44” years old and that employees of American Airlines, where Agema used to work, would lie about domestic partnerships in order to receive health care to treat AIDS. Agema’s statement about life expectancies referred to a long-discredited study based on newspaper obituaries of gay men in urban areas during the height of the AIDS crisis, not scientific samples representative of the LGBT community as a whole.
“Dave Agema continues to use pseudo-science and outright lies to advance a hateful, bigoted agenda,” Irwin said. “It says a lot about the Republican Party that they chose Dave Agema for a leadership role. I’m sure there are Republicans who are as disgusted as I am by his behavior, but his views reflect their party’s official position.”
Earlier this year, Agema posted an article on his personal Facebook page citing dubious statistics about gay people, accusing them of rampant pedophilia, drug use and disease incidence, and calling them “filthy.” Calls for his resignation were widespread, and fellow Republicans also distanced themselves from Agema, but he refused to step down.
“This kind of hateful and discriminatory language has no place in the current political discourse,” Rutledge said. “I have had the unfortunate experience to have lived through discrimination, and that’s why I’m committed to a Michigan where everyone is treated with the same respect and dignity.”
Agema’s beliefs are not supported by facts or widely shared by Michiganders, especially youth. Across party lines, young voters overwhelmingly support marriage equality and the effort to overturn Michigan’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, put into place in 2004.
“If Michigan is to attract and retain the best young talent, we have to be an inclusive, welcoming state,” Zemke said. “These comments, in addition to being totally reprehensible, are not indicative of the kind of image Michigan should put forth – one that says we are a state that welcomes people regardless of sexual orientation.”