Former Michigan State Rep. Dave Agema drew criticism Dec. 11 from Governor Snyder and other Republicans after his disparaging remarks against LGBT citizens. BTL Photo: Todd Heywood

State Politicos Slam Agema's Latest Anti-Gay Screed

Snyder, MDCH and Speaker Bolger Respond

By Todd Heywood

LANSING - Politicians from both parties wasted no time Tuesday slamming Republican National Committeemen from Michigan Dave Agema's latest antigay comments. Politicians were responding to a national action call by Equality Michigan which demanded politicians - particularly Republicans - condemn Agema's statements and require him to resign his national post.

"What I'd say, plainly and simply, is that the Governor believes Mr. Agema's remarks are wrong, extreme and discriminatory. We shouldn't tolerate discrimination of any kind. There shouldn't be room for that in any political party. Period," said Sara Wurfel, a spokesperson for Republican Governor Rick Snyder in an email to BTL.

Agema made national headlines Tuesday when his comments at a Berrien County Republican event over the weekend made the local newspaper.

"Folks, they (gay people) want free medical because they're dying (when they're) between 30 and 44 years old," the Hearald Palladium reported Agema said. "To me, it's a moral issue. It's a Biblical issue. Traditional marriage is where it should be and it's in our platform. Those in our party who oppose traditional marriage are wrong."

The Michigan Department of Community Health said in a statement to BTL that Agema's age and death claim does not reflect Michigan's HIV reality.

"In terms of Michigan data, these comments are not reflective of what our data shows," wrote Angela Minicuci, spokesperson for the department.

Minicuci said deaths associated with HIV/AIDS have "dramatically" decreased since the advent of antiretroviral drugs in 1995. For instances, there were 921 deaths of people living with HIV in 1995, compared to 121 in 2012. For those living with AIDS, there were 852 deaths in 1995 compared to 107 in 2012.

BTL inquired of MDCH as to whether Agema's comments helped or hurt the state's efforts in addressing the HIV crisis.

"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," Minicuci responded in an email. "With every disease, our overall concern and goal is to make sure that Michigan residents know the facts so that they can get tested, protect themselves, and receive treatment."

Snyder was not alone in issuing a statement.

"Speaker Bolger is understanding when someone speaks about their faith, but he is disgusted when someone demonizes another person for any reason," said Ari Adler, spokesperson for Bolger in an email. "I assure you, Mr. Agema does not speak for this office or for where the Speaker stands on the issue of trying to find a reasonable balance between personal liberties and religious freedom."

And Republicans were not alone in challenging Agema. Four Democratic state representatives from Wastenaw county issued a joint press release condemning the comments, but stopped short of calling for Agema's resignation from the Republican National Committee.

"When a leader of a state party makes comments like this it sends a terrible message to the rest of the world," Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Town) said. "Michigan would do better at attracting jobs and supporting our diverse workforce if outdated and ignorant statements like this were not made."

Ann Arbor Rep. Jeff Irwin when a step further.

"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."

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