LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has condemned GOP National Committeeman Dave Agema's statement that gay people are seeking health insurance for same-sex partners because they are dying of AIDS and want free medical care.
Agema made the statement last Thursday at the Berrien County Republican Party's holiday reception at a banquet hall in Lake Township, east of Bridgman in southwestern Michigan. He told the group that he opposes gay marriage and said that Republicans who support it are wrong, The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph (http://bit.ly/1bXh9CK ) reported.
"I stand for traditional marriage, not homosexual ones, ... the basic unit of government in society," Agema said. He said his experience as an American Airlines pilot made him familiar with efforts by gay people to get health insurance coverage because of the ravages of AIDS.
"Folks, they want free medical because they're dying between 38 and 44 years old," he said. "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."
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Wednesday that the governor considers the remarks "extreme and discriminatory."
"We shouldn't tolerate discrimination of any kind," said Wurfel. "We must make sure everyone is treated with respect and civility."
Wurfel did not address calls by some people that Agema should resign.
Agema said in an email that the news media "twisted my speech out of context," the Detroit Free Press reported.
"I was simply making a point about my opposition to same-sex benefits and for traditional marriage," Agema said. "I stand by my words as I said them despite efforts by others to twist the meaning of those words."
Agema, a former state representative, was chosen to his Republican National Committee post at a state GOP convention.
In May, Snyder declined to comment when asked if Agema should resign over an anti-gay posting on Facebook. Agema posted an excerpt from an article that included the assertion that gays account for half the murders in large cities.
Snyder said then that discrimination of any kind is inappropriate and "it's important we stand up for all people."
Another western Michigan Republican official issued a statement Wednesday night condemning Agema's latest anti-gay statement.
"No doubt, there will continue to be disagreement with regard to social issues, especially if the tenets of one's faith conflict with a proposal or law," said state Rep. Joe Haverman of Holland. "But as a Christian man who seeks to walk as Christ taught, I believe differences of opinion should come from a place of love, not a place of hatred and disgust for people who may differ from us."