In his March 30 column (“Agema and his like must go”), Nolan Finley took a course shared by just one current or former elected official in Michigan that Dave Agema’s Facebook post was “vile garbage,” also calling it “backward bile” and “pure prejudice.”
Unfortunately he left the door open for further equivocation on the part of Republicans who since last week have failed to speak out either against Agema or about marriage equality, saying “(t)here may be defensible reasons to oppose gay marriage…”
Finley should be lauded for his continued willingness to call out Michigan Republicans for head-scratching maneuvers on social issues (“Abortion focus will cost GOP Michigan,” 2/28).
But any inference that there are legitimate arguments to be made against marriage equality is misguided.
In arguing in favor of Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court, Charles Cooper made the now-infamous argument that marriage is a part of the state’s responsibility to promote “responsible procreation.” While a convenient fit for the Democratic “War on Women” narrative, the idea that disallowing same-sex partners from getting married encourages responsible procreation by opposite-sex partners requires creative intellectual gymnastics, to put it kindly.
Opponents of marriage equality also often drift off into arguments about the sanctity of marriage and the specter of “no-fault divorce,” as Rep. Mike Shirkey did in a rambling Facebook post about Dave Agema that was first reported in the Jackson Citizen Patriot. But allowing government to ban marriage between certain people will no more promote family stability than government’s arbitrary bans on certain types of drugs have promoted responsible drug usage.
One argument articulated by Agema in a Monday radio interview (incidentally my personal favorite argument against equality) was that churches that don’t marry same-sex couples will be punished by government. Or, as he put it:
And the next thing I fear is they’ll come to your churches and say ‘oh, you won’t marry same-sex couples? Well that’s interesting. This is a hate crime, you just lost your tax-exempt status.’ This is going to go from one step to the next, it’s part of the plan.
In addition to relying on dubious assumptions about the efficacy of the IRS, this is a completely unrealistic scenario.
The fact is, a ban on marriage equality has never actually been imposed because of a belief that government should be promoting procreation, or that such a ban will somehow protect straight marriages. Agema’s bigotry wasn’t just news as an event in itself, but because it reflects an ugly animus shared by nearly every Republican in the state — certainly every Republican in a position of power.
This week, 21 Michigan Republican activists called on Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema to resign – apparently drawing the line at his Facebook posts claiming most gay people are pedophiles and responsible for over half the murders in New York City. The activists were shocked –shocked! – that Dave Agema, who has a long history of outlandish claims and ridiculous behavior, would do such a thing.
Wednesday the Michigan Republican Party attempted to head off the controversy by issuing a statement (not yet posted on their website) claiming they believe “all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity” – and their support for so-called “traditional marriage…should never be allowed nor confused with any form of hate or discrimination toward anyone.”
Got that, LGBT Michiganders? Michigan Republicans don’t endorse discrimination, they just endorse Michigan laws that allow you to be fired because you’re gay, and endorse an unconstitutional federal law banning marriage equality, and support upholding the Michigan constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.
This is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Republicans love to look for compromise on issues like this, as ifsugarcoating their messaging will make up for the bigots they (apparently accidentally) elevate to positions of leadership. But there can be no compromise on civil rights. There is nothing acceptable about telling gay Americans their government and employer is going to discriminate against them because of who they love. And no condemnation of hate speech – no matter how passionate – goes as far as realizing that any reference to “traditional marriage” is placing yourself on the wrong side of history.
Soon after assuming control of the Michigan House, Republicans put out aseries of insulting press releases calling domestic partners of state employees “roommates.” Despite their total control of Lansing, they repeatedly assailed Democrats for being “out of touch” and “irresponsible and reckless” for taking the position that state employees’ domestic partners should have access to any benefits. Remember, the only reason these people have a “roommate” is because they’re banned by the state constitution from marrying whoever they want.
If Republicans want to make headlines on marriage equality, all they need to do is put out a strongly-worded statement “condemning” other Republicans who call the LGBT agenda “filthy.” But if they want to no longer be viewed as hateful and backwards (in the words of Jeb Bush, “anti-everything…anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker” ) they should actually change. Young Republicans can and should take the bold position that discrimination should no longer be carved into the state constitution.
I would invite the 21 Republican activists who signed that letter to join me over here on the right side of history. It’s a good place to be.
Rick Jones and four other Republican senators have been making a lot of noise about their new bill to repeal the pension tax and restore the homestead property tax credit. All five have been taking every opportunity to tell reporters that they voted against the Republican tax overhaul – with Jones wailing that he’s “greeted with a lot of outrage” whenever he goes to a coffee shop.
These five Senators are all technically correct when they say they voted against raising taxes on seniors living on a fixed income and on Michigan homeowners. But their opposition only lasted for a few minutes, as every one of them voted to give the bill immediate effect. Twice!
Caught in such an embarrassingly obvious case of hypocrisy, what does Rick Jones have to say for himself? Well, he hasn’t said anything, because no one has asked him. But his answer should be very interesting, considering how complicated his relationship with pension taxes is.
Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, moved to strip out the pension tax immediately after the Senate passed it. Sen. Jones joined 23 other Republicans in voting it down.
Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, moved to restore some income tax deductions for senior citizens immediately after passage of the initial bill. Sen. Jones joined 21 other Republicans in voting it down.
An election year is coming up, and many Republicans are scared for their political lives. They should be! But Sen. Jones owes his constituents, reporters, and every Michiganian the intellectual honesty to drop these political games. If he really didn’t support the pension tax, he had several chances to vote it down, delay its implementation, and even repeal it.
Sen. Jones, I get it – being a politician is hard. But don’t waste our time by complaining about unpopular decisions that you supported, but are afraid to publicly stand for. And drop the charade about outrage in coffee shops. On this one, you’re getting exactly what you deserve.