Dave Agema, a former Michigan state representative and current member of the National Republican Committee, told attendees of a holiday party last week that he wants to protect “traditional marriage” so that gay couples don’t abuse the system for health care benefits. When he worked as a pilot for American Airlines, he claims that some gay people pretended to be partnered to get benefits if they had AIDS:
“I stand for traditional marriage, no homosexual ones,” he said. “… The family unit is the basic unit in society. When you tear the family apart, you tear the country apart.”
He has taken flak nationally for his stance against gay marriage, but he said he doesn’t mind because while working at American Airlines, he saw firsthand what happens when benefits are extended to gay people.
He said American Airlines workers would say a person with AIDS was their lover so that person could get medical benefits.
“Folks, they (gay people) want free medical because they’re dying (when they’re) between 30 and 44 years old,” he 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.”
Such talking points are par for the course for Agema, who believes that homosexuality is an “unhealthy lifestyle” that “usually leads to early death.” In fact, he believes that homosexuality is something that people choose and that schools are actually turning kids gay by teaching them that being gay is an “ok lifestyle.” In 2011, Agema even proposed punishing Michigan state universities that provided domestic partner benefits by cutting 5 percent from those universities’ budgets.
Over the past year, the Republican Party has repeatedly claimed that it needed to tone down — or at least sugarcoat or offer some “grace, love and respect” — when discussing opposition to gay rights. That hasn’t stopped the RNC from approving another resolution opposing marriage equality, citing debunked junk science to justify condemning same-sex families as inferior. Agema’s brazen rhetoric does not abide this RNC guidance, nor does it seem to stray too far from the committee’s other actions.
In an email to supporters with the subject line “I stand by my words,” Agema explained that he was “simply making a point about my opposition to same sex benefits and for traditional benefits. I stand by my words as I said them despite efforts by others to twist the meaning of those words.”