Dave Agema

This week at the annual Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island, Governor Snyder joined the chorus of people calling for an update to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people… sort of.

There is a lot of spoon-feeding to the press here on the Island – a litany of press conferences and media scrums. And, yesterday, one of those press conferences was held by a group of business leaders who want LGBT protections rolled into the civil rights law.

Meanwhile, at almost the exact same time as these business leaders were making their announcement, the Governor was talking to us, telling us he thought the legislature ought to take the issue up.

But, did he actually endorse it? “I’m encouraging them to say there’s been a lot of dialog and discussion on this. It’s been healthy in the public and I think it could be an appropriate topic for the legislators to take up. I would appreciate that,” the Governor said. And, that statement is fairly typical of the multiple exchanges we had with the governor on this topic.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican officials have chosen the niece of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to replace Terri Lynn Land on the party's national committee.

Ronna Romney McDaniel was elected Saturday morning during a meeting of the 113-member Michigan Republican Party State Central Committee. McDaniel is the daughter of Ronna Romney, who also served on the Republican National Committee.

Land, Michigan's former secretary of state, resigned last month to focus on her run for the U.S. Senate. Her likely Democratic opponent is U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.

This week on It’s Just Politics: a couple of interesting events of which we’re taking note. The first item out of D.C., where the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week quickly and quietly approved an increase to the nation’s debt ceiling. No big arguments. No conditions. Which is an anomaly. Raising the debt ceiling has become a battle over the nation’s fiscal soul.

State and national GOP chairs have now called on Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema to resign his position.

Agema stirred controversy after making anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments.

Late Friday, Agema issued a statement acknowledging “errors in judgment,” but says he won’t resign.

This has many people asking what Agema’s comments mean for Republicans – particularly for Muslim or gay members of the Republican Party.

Joining us now is Joe Sylvester, chair of the Michigan Log Cabin Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans are people who work within the party to push for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

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GRANDVILLE, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan member of the Republican National Committee says he's made mistakes but he's not quitting the party post.

Dave Agema issued a statement Friday, hours after chairmen of the Michigan and national Republican Party urged him to step down.

Last March, Agema posted an article on Facebook with an unsubstantiated claim that gays account for half the murders in large cities. He also came under fire from the Council on American-Islamic Relations for a Facebook posting this month questioning Muslims' commitment to charity.

Official legislative portrait

This week during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, Gov. Rick Snyder renewed his call for civility. His comments seemed to again be pointed toward Dave Agema, a Republican National Committeeman. Agema is being criticized for comments made against gays and Muslims, and the calls for his resignation are getting louder. 

To talk about this, we're joined by Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s co-host of "It’s Just Politics." 

Dave Agema / Facebook

The Republican National Committee is holding its winter meeting in Washington D.C. The meeting starts today and runs through Friday.

But Detroit Free Press Washington D.C. correspondent Todd Spangler reports embattled Michigan RNC committeeman Dave Agema is not in attendance:

A hotel in Washington where he was booked to stay two nights beginning tonight said his reservation was canceled. As has been the case for a week, calls from the Free Press to Agema's home in Grandville have gone unreturned.

Spangler reports that former Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land is at the meetings and she confirmed that she had not seen Agema.

Calls for Agema's resignation have been growing within the Republican Party. Go here to see why. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Dave Agema served from 2006 to 2012 as a state representative in the Michigan Legislature. He hit his term limit and moved on to other things in 2012.

Now he represents Michigan as a member of the Republican National Committee. Many Republicans wish he weren't.

Some are naming names and calling for his ouster. Others aren’t calling him out by name but are “asking for more civility,” as MPRN’s Rick Pluta reported:

Embattled Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema is hitting back at critics of his anti-gay and anti-Muslim Web postings, saying he stands on the same issues he always has: "God, family and country."

In a Facebook post, the former state representative says people are feeding half-truths to the news media within the GOP and stirring up divisiveness.

He says he's wrongly being blamed for posting other people's comments and says it's an unfortunate and uncivil tactic to tarnish his reputation.

Rick Pluta, Lansing bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of "It's Just Politics"  joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Governor Rick Snyder is hosting the 2014 North American International Summit.
michigan.gov

As a state Republican leader continues to roil his party with comments about gay people and Muslims, Gov. Rick Snyder used a Martin Luther King Day speech to call for more public civility.

“It’s disappointing that I had to make that call because of comments made by people out in the public,” he told a Martin Luther King Day lunch in Lansing. “And that just shows we need to continue this journey in terms of looking at equality and justice.”

The governor’s comments were yet another veiled reference to Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema.

Official legislative portrait

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - As the Republican National Committee prepares for meetings in Washington this week, Gov. Rick Snyder and other party leaders in Michigan are criticizing repeated anti-gay and anti-Muslim remarks by Committeeman Dave Agema.

The 64-year-old ex-state representative from western Michigan represents the state on the Republican party's national board.

Snyder made a semi-veiled reference to Agema in Thursday's State of the State speech, calling for civil discourse in the public arena.

Before we dive into this week's It's Just Politics, we gotta give a shout out to the Washington Post who named co-host Rick Pluta one of Michigan's best state capitol reporters in America. Cheers, Rick!

“We are reinventing Michigan,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in last night's State of the State address; an address that could (in a much-abbreviated form) double as a reelection campaign speech. It was filled with a lot of good news of revenue surpluses, money for early childhood and schools, etc.

A little something for everyone.

For conservatives -- who have not fully embraced this governor -- Snyder joined the call for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. For moderates and independents, Snyder used the speech to try quell some of the controversy that’s being created within and about the Michigan Republican Party.

Here’s what he said: “Publicly tonight, I’d like to make a call to all citizens of Michigan, to ask us to have a greater degree of civility and respect towards others of different backgrounds and different views. The future of Michigan is dependent on having people understand that differences are a positive power, that we can find common ground and let’s work to bring Michiganders together, not divide us.”

The Republican angst over gay rights continues this week.

Driven and riven by the continuing commentary on the topic by Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, in this case on AIDS and partner benefits. “Folks they want free medical because they’re dying between the ages of 30 and 44 years old… For me it’s a moral issue. It’s a biblical issue,” Agema told a local Republican holiday gathering last week in West Michigan (thanks to the Herald Palladium for audio of remarks).

And, as they often do, Agema’s comments have already gotten a lot of attention; inciting what has become a now-predictable ritual of condemnation from Democrats and Republicans. However, Republicans are complaining not so much about what Agema said but, instead, how he said it.

This is not the first time that Dave Agema has made comments like this. There is a history here. Agema has always made it plain he considers homosexuality to be nothing but a deviant lifestyle. His detractors say he’s a bigot. His supporters - and he certainly has them within the state Republican Party - say he’s a truth-teller. In fact, former state Representative Jack Hoogendyk, a prominent Tea Party leader, recently called him “a prophet.”

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republicans have taken no official steps to rebuke the kinds of anti-gay comments made recently by GOP National Committee member Dave Agema.

The party's meeting on Saturday in Lansing didn't deal with a measure proposed by western Michigan activist Jason Watts, submitted after the deadline for resolutions. It doesn't mention Agema but disavows the party of "demagogic rhetoric that is incendiary and unbecoming of civil discourse."

For Democrats, Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema really is the gift who keeps on giving. Agema, a former airline pilot and state legislator, seems morbidly obsessed with gay people.

He loathes them, and seems creepily fascinated by his mythical version of their lives. Earlier this year, he made headlines by posting a scurrilous, wildly inaccurate, and bizarre article about what he likes to call “homosexuals” on Facebook.

The article, by some mysterious figure who claimed to be a doctor, would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so filled with hate. It claimed that gay people commit up to half the murders in large cities, and are all horribly diseased because of their filthy sexual practices. It also claimed that gangs of lesbians march through the streets chanting “recruit, recruit, recruit.”

There’s an odd story you might have missed from the Upper Peninsula. A member of the Michigan Republican state central committee is facing major felony charges in Wisconsin.

Various press accounts quote police as saying Douglas Sedenquist of Escanaba was arrested five months ago after his wife notified police that he was supposedly stalking her with a high-powered rifle and making suicide threats. His wife left him last year; she said he was physically abusing their daughters.

Police in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she now lives, arrested Sedenquist after, police say, he repeatedly refused their orders to put down the rifle or get out of his truck. Instead, he asked them to let him shoot himself. Eventually they were able to arrest him, and now he faces a variety of charges.

I have gone into this in some detail because I haven‘t yet told you the weirdest part about all this. Nobody, so far as I know, is demanding that he step down from his party leadership roles. Sedenquist, by the way, is also vice-chair of the Delta County GOP.

Two weeks ago, as the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema posted a shocking and scurrilous article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuals.”

The piece was a collection of hate-filled, untrue smears, such as that gays commit half the murders in large cities, are riddled with diseases, die young and have a secret agenda to recruit children.

This prompted a sudden outcry. Some young and moderate Republicans called for Agema’s resignation. But he refused, and instead asked people to sign an online petition supporting him.

The petition got hundreds of signatures, which Agema boasted about till a reporter scrutinized them. Among the signers were the names, Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Goat Killer and “I spit upon thee.” Plus someone claiming to be North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who wrote “From one dictator to another.”

But while there was a considerable outcry, Governor Rick Snyder has remained noticeably silent. Finally, he was cornered by a reporter Monday and asked his opinion. He refused. “I‘m not going to get in the middle of all that,” he said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder won't say whether a Michigan member of the Republican National Committee should resign for posting an article critical of gay people on Facebook.

The Republican governor told reporters Monday that he's "not going to get in the middle of all that." Snyder adds that discrimination of any kind is inappropriate and "it's important we stand up for all people."

Yesterday, a Republican National Committeeman, and former Michigan lawmaker, posted an article chock full of anti-gay slurs on Facebook. 

Dave Agema, the Committeeman who posted the article with a byline of "Frank Joseph, MD," has been asked to resign by 21 Republican precinct delegates and young Republican leaders. 

His response?

"Absolutely not."

Did you know there is actually still a Communist Party, USA? They even have a website, so that if, in the middle of the night, you are suddenly seized with a desire to join the party of Lenin and Stalin, why, you can get on line and whip out your credit card.

For $60 a year, you can be a Communist. Not only that, my guess is that if you do sign up, you won’t even lose your job or be visited by the FBI. That’s because the Communist Party today is no threat to anybody, and is, in fact, totally irrelevant.

That isn’t true of the Republican Party. Not yet, anyway. But increasingly, the GOP is beginning to behave like a wacky fringe party. They are offering positions way outside the mainstream. More and more, what one hears from Republican spokesmen is hatred and intolerance, and we got a good example yesterday.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Supporters of an ‘Anti-Sharia' bill plan to put pressure on Michigan lawmakers this week.

They want a vote on the bill, which would bar Michigan courts from citing ‘foreign’ laws in their decisions.   The bill has sat in the State House Judiciary committee for nearly a year and a half.

Irving Ginsburg is a member of the group that supports the bill.   He’s upset it could die without ever getting a vote.

Fasten your seat belts. We are in for another three and a half months in which President Obama and his surrogates will try to make us believe that Mitt Romney’s main goal is destroy the middle class and outsource every last American job to China.

Meanwhile, the Romney forces will try to make us think that President Obama is totally incompetent and single-handedly responsible for the long recession.

Hyperbole and exaggeration have been how campaigns have been conducted since George Washington’s time. But what has been taboo is reckless, vicious and false character assassination. We did have one very infamous practitioner of that kind of politics - Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose name we now use to define them. Back in the early 1950s, McCarthy destroyed lives, careers and reputations by recklessly accusing people of being Communists without the faintest shred of evidence.

Much of the nation was in a grip of terror. Eventually, McCarthy was stripped of his powers and soon drank himself to death. Ever since, there’s been agreement that there was such a thing as too far.

Until now, that is. A form of new McCarthyism has been growing across this nation and this state ever since President Obama was elected. My theory is that this was inspired by racism. There are millions who just can’t stomach that we have a black president.

For many years, there was a big difference between the two major parties when it came to their internal affairs. Democrats often didn’t get along behind closed doors and on convention floors.  And they often didn’t mind letting their disagreements show. Nor did their intra-party brawls usually seem to hurt them. That’s because the Democrats were a collection of different interest groups who didn’t necessarily like each other very much.

About 150 people met in Lansing yesterday to support a bill banning foreign or religious laws in Michigan. The measure would forbid courts from using such laws in their deliberations. A lot of the commentary at the meeting was directed against Sharia laws that are used in some Islamic traditions. 

Tom Craig of Spring Lake attended the rally. “The thing I’m concerned about is foreign influences in our court system. I think the United States was founded on its constitution, not the constitution or the will of some foreign country,” Craig says.

Republican state Representative David Agema sponsored the measure. “It’s just simply protecting your constitutional rights, whether state or federal, from any foreign law that allows you to lose it in a court of law and progressive judges are allowing this to occur, so the purpose is to clarify public policy. That’s what this bill does,” Rep. Agema says.

The rally and the legislation was condemned by the Michigan Catholic Conference. The conference says the law could lead to courts meddling in religious affairs.

State Representative Dave Agema (R-Grandville) is suing officials with the City of Allegan, Allegan Public Schools, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and People for the American Way for allegedly violating his rights to free speech and assembly.

The case stems from an event scheduled at Allegan High School in late January 2012. The evening's guest was billed as a former Muslim terrorist who converted to Christianity.

Police shut the event down; citing safety concerns. But Agema says there were no safety threats.

A city attorney declined to comment for the story. But said this in a written statement:

“This lawsuit is disappointing in many ways.  It is based on conjecture, logical fallacies, and, more disappointingly, factual inaccuracies.  The plaintiffs did not even spell one of the defendants’ names correctly.  It is disappointing that the lawsuit wrongly imputes motives to the police officers.”

The lawsuit names the city manager, police chief and other officers in their official capacities and as individuals. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Supporters and opponents of the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, are still debating the merits of the proposal nearly a week after the bridge plan failed to get enough support in the state legislature.

Fewer than 100 unmarried state employees are expected to sign-up for health care benefits for their domestic partners by the end of this month.

That would mean less than $600,000 would be spent on live-in partner benefits paid for by the state.

The preliminary estimates are well below what some Republican lawmakers said taxpayers would end up paying for the benefits.

Republican state Representative Dave Agema (R-Ottawa Co.) sponsored a measure to end domestic partner benefits for public employees in the future.

"Numbers aside, it really doesn’t make any difference because what we have now, if it doesn’t stop, it will only grow in the future," said Agema. "We haven’t included the colleges and the local governments and so-forth, so it would only be increased to millions and millions of dollars in the future."

Agema’s proposal could not reverse the decision by the state Civil Service Commission to allow for public employee domestic partner benefits.

mickepe / MorgueFile

Amateur mixed martial arts fights may soon be regulated by the state. A bill introduced to the Michigan House would require both promoters and fighters to be licensed by the state. The bill would also create a commission to enforce the rules and investigate complaints.