– By Cathy Reisenwitz
When Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema publicly claimed that “gay men only want universal health care because they’re dying of AIDS,” no one expected an outcry from the GOP. But Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is defying expectations of Republican leadership right and left. He recently joined other Michigan GOP leaders in calling for Agema to step down from his post.
“Defending civil liberties is at the heart of the Republican Party and our Constitution,” Amash said in a statement. “As I’ve demonstrated with my words and record, I am trying to grow a new generation of Republicans that includes more gays and lesbians, racial-ethnic minorities, women, and young people.”
Agema had also publicly approved of new anti-gay laws in Russia and posted an article last spring describing homosexuals as “filthy.”
“Dave’s approach has become a distraction for those of us who are standing up to the political establishment, whose push for bigger government, more corporate welfare, and less individual liberty have hurt our party.”
Amash advised, “I hope Dave will do the right thing for the next generation of conservatives and step down.”
Amash joins Gov. Rick Snyder and other party leaders in Michigan in renouncing the views expressed by Agema. The 64-year-old former state representative serves on the Republican party’s national board.
“Leaders have a responsibility to create an inclusive, welcoming party, not to exclude,” Ex-Republican National Committeewoman Betsy DeVos said. “What’s going on is cause for concern about our future prospects as a party and our ability to bring people around to our point of view and long-term agenda. We are driving people away who might otherwise support what we stand for.”
However, progress in the GOP is not equally distributed. In New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee opted to endorse a Democrat rather than endorse the only Republican candidate on the entire ballot, because military veteran and non-profit leader Drew Ward is openly gay.
However, on the national level, two candidates are trying to change history by becoming the first ever openly gay Republicans elected to Congress.
Amash, who is also openly libertarian, has made gay-friendliness a priority. He has called for the federal government to get out of marriage, saying, “My view has always been that government should not be in the business of defining or redefining marriage.” He also opposed DOMA, Tweeting: “Real threat to traditional marriage & religious liberty is government, not gay couples who love each other & want to spend lives together.”
Cathy Reisenwitz is an Editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. Cathy is also Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State, and her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo, the Washington Examiner and the Daily Caller.