Ken’s Take on the World


Twinks and Trump

Today I read an Op-Ed in The Huffington Post regarding an actual group called, “Twinks 4 Trump.”  I learned there are actually two such things http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/im-a-gay-dad-and-heres-what-i-want-the-twinks-4-trump_us_57a469aae4b0ccb02372168d  One site is, apparently, a parody site with all photographs and the like.  The other is actually a group of younger gay guys who claim to be conservative who further claim to support Mr. Trump in his campaign to become the 45th President of the United States.  The founder of this second group is a young man named Lucian Wintrich.  He attempts to articulate reasons for being a, “conservative” and a supporter of Donald Trump here: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/8/02/twinks4trump-creator-5-things-media-gets-wrong-about-gay-conservatives  The problem with his message, and I applaud, “The Advocate” for including this, is that Mr. Wintrich missed the memo that neither Mr. Trump, nor the Republican Party are conservative in any sense of the word.

 

Many Republicans are claiming that the GOP is the opposite of the Democratic Party.  They are correct as many who claim to be Democrats say the same thing.  The problem that supporters of the Grand Old Party miss is that the opposite of, “progressive” is not, “conservative.”  The antonym of progressive is actually regressive and this is what today’s Republican Party seeks to impose on our great nation.  This is a message they have honed and promoted over the past 50 years, long before Mr. Wintrich was even born.  Lucian Wintrich and another, “alt-right” golden boy, Milo Yiannopoulos, were not even born until after some of the biggest challenges facing the LGBT community had already been fought.  They reap the benefits of the hard-fought efforts of thousands of people who refused to back down in the face of bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, and violence.  I wonder if either of them have even read about Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the AIDS epidemic, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Harvey Milk, Leonard Matlovich, ACT-UP, the Mattachine Society, and others who really paved the way for the lives they are free to lead today?  I will not sit idly by while the demagogues of the Republican Party seek to roll back all of the progress made to prevent discrimination and promote equality for all people.  I will not stand around while Republicans attempt to roll back the economic advancements that have occurred over the past eight years.

 

This phenomenon, that is the fallacy of a GOP that is a tolerant and inclusive political party, is not limited to this group of younger, mostly white, guys.  We have already learned the Republican Party Platform that was approved at this year’s Republican National Committee (RNC) convention is the most notoriously anti-LGBT platform in the party’s 162-year history!!  Another group that has been supportive of the GOP for years is the Log Cabin Republicans who have also failed to recognize the messaging they claim to support regarding smaller government and fiscal responsibility is not embodied in the principles or actions of the GOP today.  And yet, someone like Mr. Yiannopoulos proclaims Mr. Trump to be the, “most pro-gay candidate in history!”  While Mr. Trump is not the most anti-gay candidate in modern history, it is clear by his statements that he is not remotely, “pro-gay.”  At best, Donald Trump is apathetic to the concerns of the LGBT community.  He has promised to appoint judges who would reverse marriage equality and other non-discrimination measures that protect LGBT citizens.  I guess folks like Wintrich and Yiannopoulos think uttering the acronym, “LGBTQ” during an acceptance speech is proof the Republican Party has finally embraced them.  For the record, Mr. Trump’s use of this nomenclature was used in reference to an attack by a Muslim on a gay nightclub in Florida that left 49 people dead and many more wounded.  It should also be noted that Mr. Trump appeared surprised that no one on the convention floor booed at his use of this language.  This comment was not in support of LGBT people, it was designed to stoke hatred of Muslims!!  This is what was being applauded on the convention floor. http://reason.com/blog/2016/08/03/lgbtq-at-the-rnc-and-dnc

 

I can only hope that, “twinks” like Mr. Wintrich and Mr. Yiannopoulos come to their senses and realize there is no place at the table within today’s Republican Party for LGBT people.  The messaging of the party today is not one of inclusiveness.  It is about divisiveness, bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and hatred.  There is hardly any reference to fiscal responsibility.  There has been no message of hope or tolerance.  I am happy that folks like Lucian and Milo can live their lives as they see fit and I truly hope they will never have to face the challenges faced by those who came before me and that my generation experienced.

 

I would challenge Mr. Wintrich and Mr. Yiannopoulos to articulate what they believe are the actual, “conservative” principles they believe they are supporting.  I look forward to seeing, or hearing, what they have to say on that.  I am pretty certain they will be limited to the bigoted, xenophobic, arguments espoused by the Republican candidate for President and these are not conservative principles at all.



Religious Intolerance

Throughout history, there are many examples of intolerance perpetrated in the name of religion.  Women, in many nations and religious traditions, have been subjugated to men and denied the rights and privileges of men.  Entire groups of people have been enslaved based on the color of their skin or their nationality or ethnic background.  Wars have been waged in the name of religion.  In the United States, there is a rich history of using religion, specifically Christian interpretations of the Holy Bible to commit atrocities against others.  Slavery, lynching, racial discrimination, segregation, bans on interracial dating or marriage, anti-LGBT violence, violence against women, anti-immigrant violence has all been justified by use of the Bible.  The recent court battles regarding same-sex marriage equality have been argued using religion as a backdrop.  Religion has been, and is still used, to support discrimination against others in the United States.

In the past few years, a number of states have promoted, so-called, religious freedom laws which would permit individuals, and businesses, to discriminate against other individuals for any reason by suggesting that not discriminating would, in essence, violate their religious beliefs.  One of the more recent attempts, in Indiana, led to a significant backlash that caused other states to reconsider their own efforts to enact such legislation.  In the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges, striking down bans on same-sex marriage, far-right religious groups, including, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation, the Traditional Values Coalition, and the American Family Association, among others, have pressured Congress to enact sweeping laws that would codify discrimination by individuals who invoke their religion.  These efforts are very dangerous and would violate the founding principles of our nation.

Recent lobbying efforts by these organizations have led to the reintroduction of bills including the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” (H.R. 3133 and S. 1808).  Other bills introduced in the House and the Senate would exempt organizations from providing adoption placement services with LGBT couples, even those who are legally married, if such placement would violate the organization’s religious beliefs.  The insidious nature of these bills allows people to claim a religious belief to justify discrimination by individuals, even in states or municipalities that already have anti-discrimination laws on their books.  None of these bills have a majority of members of the chamber as supporters and are not likely to make it to the President’s desk.  However, the introduction of these pieces of legislation should put all of us on notice that extremist religious organizations are attempting to subvert the U.S. Constitution.  Specifically, these bills, should they become law, would degrade the intent and meaning of the First Amendment religious freedom clauses by permitting individuals and businesses to force their religious beliefs upon others or to act in a discriminatory fashion toward others which would undermine state statutes or municipal ordinances that currently prohibit such discrimination.



Religious Freedom and the Restoration of Legalized Discrimination

Recently, Indiana’s Governor, Mike Pence, found himself at the center of a firestorm associated with his signing of a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  This past week has seen Governor Pence attempting to defend, and ultimately, backpedal on the law.  The backlash has led to a number of prominent voices speaking out against the enactment of this law and the hashtag, #BoycottIndiana trending on social media sites.  The outcry has led Arkansas Governor, Asa Hutchinson to withhold his signature from a similarly-worded bill sent to him by his legislature.  Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan has vowed to veto a similar bill if sent to him by the Michigan legislature.  The Indiana legislature is currently scurrying to amend the Indiana RFRA at the behest of businesses and residents of the state.

As Governor Pence has repeatedly pointed out, Indiana was simply doing what the Federal government and, at least, 19 other states had already done.  Unfortunately, the Indiana law went further than the Federal law does and is also significantly different than the Illinois law that Governor Pence is fond of noting, then State Senator, Barack Obama, voted for.  Most people are not exactly aware of the history of these types of laws or even what they are designed to do.  A little bit of history might be in order.

Our nation’s founders were quite clear that religious influence in the public sphere could present problems that needed to be avoided.  They also recognized the important role that religion played in the lives of people and that people needed to be able to practice their religious traditions free of undue government influence.  As a result of compromise, religious expression was included in the founding document of our nation as a component of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  This amendment included two provisions associated with religious freedom.  The first provision provided that government, “…make no law respecting an establishment of religion,…” which is frequently referred to as the, “Establishment Clause.”  The second provision that addresses religion, “or prohibiting the free exercise, thereof…” which is the more familiar part of religious liberty.

Over more than two centuries a number of conflicts regarding religious liberty have found their way through the Federal Courts and rulings have sometimes limited government overreach and sometimes limited religious expression.  A 1990 US Supreme Court Case upholding the termination of two employees who were terminated after using Peyote during Native American religious ceremonies drew the outrage of progressives and conservatives and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was subsequently enacted.  This law was designed to require any Federal Government action against an individual that impaired the person’s ability to freely exercise their religious liberties must meet the highest level of scrutiny in judicial review.  This is known as, “Strict scrutiny.”  A 1997 Supreme Court ruling stated the provisions of the Act could not be applied to the states.  As a result, a number of states began to enact their own RFRA to protect religious expression rights from government overreach.

The one thing that each of these Religious Freedom laws had in common was that they protected individuals and their personal religious practices from government intrusion.  For this reason, these laws have remained, essentially, non-controversial over the past dozen years or so.  What makes the Indiana law so different is that it permits private individuals to invoke a claim of protection under the state’s RFRA when challenged by another private individual.  Another significant difference is that the Federal law, most Supreme Court rulings, and other state-level RFRA’s apply to acts associated with actual practice of religious ceremony.

Another point that should be noted is that Indiana does not include statewide civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people.  This has led to concerns being raised regarding the potential for discrimination being levied against sexual minorities.  This concern is heightened in light of last year’s US Supreme Court ruling in the case, Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  While that case addressed reproductive issues, many are concerned that an extension of the arguments made by the attorneys representing the Hobby Lobby side could be applied to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) individuals as well.  Voices from the right and left both note the case of bakeries that have refused to bake cakes requested for celebrating same-sex marriages.  Folks on the right argue this is why RFRA’s are essential while those on the left claim these laws codify discrimination into state law.

While the original RFRA, signed into law in 1993, applied to religious practices, more recent laws, including in Indiana, attempt to apply religious expression to, “sincerely-held religious belief” as opposed to actual religious ceremony.  That is what puts these newer laws into conflict with existing state laws in some cases.  The modern RFRA not only applies to the actual participation in religious activity, but asserts that an individual who merely professes a sincere religious belief is exempt from providing goods or services that are purely secular in nature.

In the case of a business, this confounds reason.  A business receives a license to operate in a particular location as a place of public accommodation.  It is designed to serve the needs of consumers of that particular product or service.  A business is bound by applicable laws of operation for that location including hours, health inspections, accessibility, and, unlike religious entities, pays taxes.  Can a business pick and choose its customers?  A private shopping club can require its customers to purchase a membership, for example.  However, such a purchasing club cannot deny membership to a particular individual if the individual can afford to pay the membership fee and agrees to abide by the rules of the club.  Convenience stores may limit the hours, or numbers of, unaccompanied minors that may be inside a particular business.  A convenience store may not, however, deny minors access to the store or its goods or services completely.  In every state, characteristics such as race, gender, and other factors may be enshrined in state or local civil rights laws.  Failing to provide service to customers of any protected class may result in civil or criminal penalties for that business.  Government has established a compelling interest in preventing discrimination to prevent injustices such as denial of service to members of particular groups.

There is an important discussion to be had regarding religious expression versus religious belief.  Ultimately, the Courts will likely be forced to arbitrate and determine what constitutes religious expression as opposed to religious belief.  I believe there are nefarious reasons underlying the current push to implement religious freedom laws over the past few years.  I have yet to hear of an incident where one individual has attempted to interfere with the free practice, or even the free expression, of religious people.  We have all been exposed to multiple cases of individuals attempting to invoke their religious beliefs as a defense of discriminatory behavior.  Throughout history, religion and religious belief has been used as an excuse to discriminate against others.

I have heard numerous people say, “Why can’t the person just go somewhere else if the (proprietor) doesn’t want to serve them?”  Or, “Why would you want to spend your money somewhere like that?”  Or, “What about the business owners religious beliefs?  Isn’t it discriminatory to force someone to violate their religious beliefs?”  Let’s break these down.

In many places a person who would be denied service, for any reason, could possibly go somewhere else.  However, in many other places, say a small town somewhere, that business or provider may be the only game in town.  To go somewhere else places a hardship on the willing customer.  What if the business was the only auto repair dealer that was capable of handling your Porsche within fifty or a hundred miles?  Or, what if your business was known far and wide as having the very best wedding cakes in the entire state?  Why should a customer be forced to settle for, second-best?  What if it was something more important that a cake or an automobile?  What if it was a sick child?

Why would someone spend their hard-earned money where it is not wanted?  Personally, I wouldn’t.  I would also make sure my friends and family would not want to spend their hard-earned money there, either.  I would also make certain that as wide an audience as possible knew that this business only liked certain types of money.  Not only would this business not get any, “Gay” money, but they would lose out on an awful lot of non-gay money as well!!  That is not really the point, though.  The business is violating the terms of their operating license.

Am I discriminating against a business owner by demanding service?  No.  The relationship between a customer and a business is mutualistic.  The business provides a product or a service and as consideration, the customer provides payment in the form of money.   It is not discrimination to ask a baker to bake a cake.  It is not discrimination to ask a professional photographer to take a picture.  It is not discrimination to ask a Pediatrician to care for a sick child.  It would be unfair to ask a Pediatrician to perform a craniotomy or to ask a photographer to bake a cake.  Someone recently posed the question, “What if you were a Jewish baker and a Neo-Nazi wanted you to bake a cake to celebrate Adolph Hitler’s Birthday?  Could you refuse to do that?”  I pointed out this was not a religious liberty issue but, rather, a free speech issue.  Baking cakes is not an exercise of religion, but rather, in this case, a source of income generation.  I said there were four possible options.  One, the baker could bake the cake, decorate the cake, and, collect payment for doing so.  This is basic contract law.  Two, the baker could bake the cake and offer to sell the items necessary to decorate the cake to the customer who could then either decorate the cake him/herself or hire someone else to do the decorating.  Three, the baker could refer the customer to another baker who might be willing to comply with the customer’s request.  And, fourth, the baker could refuse to bake the cake at all.  In this scenario, this might be legally risky due to provisions in the Federal Civil Rights Act.

Title II of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination by businesses, which are referred to as public accommodations.  Unfortunately, there are limited protected classes in this law and if the person is not a member of a protected class, they could, potentially, be denied service.  It is important to note that any contract requires, “consideration.”  That is, something of value rendered for something provided.  This requires both parties to come to agreement.  Without consideration there is, technically, no contract.

The anecdotes commonly discussed during this debate all seem to wind up revolving around a baker refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage celebration.  A business owner generally does not have to provide a good or a service to a particular customer if that service or product is not in the customary line of goods or products offered.  For example, if a customer goes into a bakery asking for a wedding cake and the owner says they bake Birthday cakes but not wedding cakes then there is no issue.  However, if the bakery regularly bakes wedding cakes as well as Birthday cakes, this most likely would not be lawful.  Most states will not allow a business to deny a service or product that is customarily offered to a customer simply because the proprietor does not “like” the customer.  This would be referred to as discrimination.  If the customer is a member of a class protected under the law, the person may have a legal claim of discrimination.  In a state without protections based on sexual orientation, there is little recourse for a person denied the services of the baker other than complaining to the state’s Better Business Bureau.  This is what makes the RFRA in Indiana so insidious.  It provides a defense to individuals, and businesses, who are sued for discrimination by other individuals.  This law is not limited to actions by the government.  The state of Indiana does not currently have protections based on sexual orientation which could limit the Due Process rights of an individual who believes they have been unfairly treated.

Governor Pence, and the entire state of Indiana has experienced the collective outrage of individuals and groups who believe this is simply an attempt to legally-sanction discriminatory behavior.  This is inconsistent with our American values today.  This serves to put other states, and their legislatures and governors, on notice.  Discrimination is bad for people, it is bad for the economy, and it is bad policy.  Caveat emptor!!



Freedom from Religion

The recent passage of S. 1062 by the Arizona legislature has kicked off another firestorm regarding the rights of religious people, particularly those who identify themselves as Christian.  This argument has become, essentially, a red herring that folks on the political right like to promote to inspire their base of supporters.  It promotes an “us” versus “them” public discourse.  It is, of course, absolutely a false argument.  However, the hyping of religious believers being attacked demonstrates popular appeal among certain groups, regardless of whether such claims are true.  The flaws with advancing the position that religious liberties are under attack by, “others” in addition to being patently untrue, include linking the Constitutionally-protected 1st Amendment rights of individual religious expression with laws that are not protected activities under the US Constitution.  While the US Constitution provides very broad protections for the free exercise of religious activities in the private, and even the public, sphere, there are no protections for attempting to enforce one’s own religious beliefs on others.  At least, not in a place that is designed to serve the general public.  Even, activities like religious proselytizing are not protected as much under the “Free Exercise” clause of the 1st Amendment as they are under the “Free Speech” provisions of the amendment.

 

The Arizona law that ignited this current firestorm is similar to other state legislation that has been, or is currently, being debated in several state capitols.  This legislation purports to protect the “rights” of individuals who provide products or services to the public from “religious discrimination.”  Namely, if a provider of such services or products claims that their, “sincerely-held religious beliefs” prevent them from accommodating the consumer of such products or services, that they would be exempt from lawsuits related to the denial of said services or products.  This spate of legislation is a direct result of multiple court rulings determining that state laws preventing marriages between same-sex couples violate either state or the federal Constitution.  Specifically, the impetus for much of this legislation involves the denial of products or services to gay male or lesbian couples who sought out consumer products for their wedding ceremonies.  These denials have, in several cases, resulted in civil lawsuits that claim denial of the requests of the homosexual clients constitutes a Constitutional violation of equal protection provisions of various state Constitutions as well as the US Constitution.  In defense, licensed businesses that have been sued have claimed a 1st Amendment right of protection based on sincerely-held religious beliefs.

 

Some have suggested this is identical to the issues faced by black people in the 1950’s and 1960’s who were denied service at segregated lunch counters.  While there are similarities, it should be noted that the issues that arose in the 1950’s and early-1960’s claimed a defense of, “State’s rights” that permitted each state to define rules relating to segregation.  Ultimately, the side that promoted equal protection won out in those cases as, I believe, will happen in these cases. 

 

There are those who ask why the gay couples who were denied service at particular businesses could not simply go elsewhere to receive desired customer service.  This argument suggests a purely market-based solution which has worked, in certain situations, in the past.  However, the courts have ruled this approach is not necessary, and in fact, has been associated with actual harm to the individual harmed by the denial of service.  The courts have found that requiring someone to use another vendor, or provider of a service or product, imposes an unreasonable burden on that individual.  Numerous examples dating back to the times of legally-sanctioned discrimination clearly demonstrate this as when black people were denied service at a “Whites Only” hospital.  While seeking a photographer for an event or a cake for a party do not rise to this level of severity, consider attempting to procure these services in a very small community.  If the only baker in town was to deny a common service, like baking a cake for a celebration, the customer may be forced to forgo a product or travel a greater distance to obtain the product.  Or, perhaps, the customer approached the business owner because that business’s service or product was believed to be the very best product available.  Should the customer be forced to settle for a lesser quality product or service?  What if the customer was seeking to purchase a specialized product like a high-end automobile?  There may not be many dealers of this particular brand of automobile and if the nearest dealer refuses to provide services it would force the customer to drive a greater distance to obtain the desired product.

 

Consider a more serious issue.  Healthcare.  Perhaps you are a Muslim who suffers from a relatively uncommon medical condition and the nearest specialist that could treat your condition refuses to provide care claiming his religious beliefs forbid him from providing service to non-Christians.  In a true emergency, the physician may have a legal obligation to provide emergency care, however, for routine care, you would have to travel quite far for essential medical care.  Legislation presented to the Arizona Governor and currently under consideration in other states would make such a denial of care acceptable.

 

A number of folks have attempted to articulate that they should not be required to abandon their religious beliefs in order to participate in a same-sex marriage.  First, no one is being forced, by the states, by the courts, or by any governmental agency to participate in an actual ceremony involving the union of two people, heterosexual or homosexual.  Second, no individual, gay or straight, has attempted to demand that another person participate in an actual ceremony associated with the legal definition of a marriage.  To be clear, even when a photographer is hired to take photographs at a wedding, they are not actually participating in the ceremonial act of marriage.  It is their business that was contracted with to provide a specific service.  In at least one other case, it has been argued that refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding was a protected religious liberty.  Again, the baking of a cake, is neither an integral part of a marriage ceremony nor a protected religious activity.  A bakery that has a license to operate as a business in the community is required to abide by applicable laws.  The courts have determined in numerous cases that a business operates as a service to the public and as such, a business owner cannot deny service to a customer who is able to pay for such services.

 

While the legislation currently being debated in several states is being linked to the conversation currently taking place in society and in the courts regarding marriage equality, it has been, rightfully, pointed out that such laws would have many unintended consequences that could leave any individual susceptible to the denial of customer service by any business owner.  Laws that permit, or worse, promote, discrimination are, as Jon Stewart has said on his show, “Morally-repugnant.”  A claim of “religious liberty” as a rationale for justifying discrimination is reprehensible to many people of faith throughout the country.  Such a claim is inconsistent with all of the major religious traditions and is being used as a means to advance a personal agenda of bigotry and prejudice.

 

While Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona did veto the legislation that was presented to her, it is interesting to note that several other states that had been, or are currently considering, such legislation have either withdrawn proposed discriminatory legislation or pulled back to reconsider advancing such un-American laws.  This is a result of the public debate on this issue, but also, a result of the potential economic backlash that any state that would enact such a law would face.  A very broad coalition of individuals spoke up regarding the Arizona legislation including a “trifecta” of progressives, conservatives, and businesses that joined with civil rights organizations in unity to oppose this heinous bill.  It is sad to note the amount of vitriol levied against the Arizona governor subsequent to her veto of the bill.



Dave Agema and the Ghosts of Christmas Past

 

Recent comments made by a former state legislator regarding gay people have been mutedly condemned by folks, mostly from the state of Michigan, who basically tsk-tsk his statements to a group of Republicans at a Berrien County event.  Notwithstanding the gross inaccuracy of his statements to this conservative group, his comments are extremely troublesome for a party that is desperately trying to appear to become more inclusive and more tolerant of groups in which the Republican Party has to make significant inroads if it intends to survive as a viable alternative to progressive voices in the political realm.

According to an article in MILive written by, Jonathon Oosting on December 10, 2013:

“Some American Airlines employees, he claimed, would tell the company that a person with AIDS was their lover in order to help them get medical benefits.

“Folks, they (gay people) want free medical because they’re dying (when they’re) between 30 and 44 years old,” Agema 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.”

Agema’s comments were part of a larger speech calling for unity between various Republican factions under the party’s official platform.”

According to, Louise Wrege, of The Herald-Palladium in southwestern Michigan, the event Mr. Agema was addressing was the Berrien County Republican Holiday Party where he also addressed how he believed it was wrong for American Airlines to extend health benefits to same-sex partners and that 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.’”

He has come under fire on multiple occasions for his statements opposing marriage equality.  In response to his most recent comments, Republican leaders in the state have offered perfunctory statements distancing themselves from his comments but failing to condemn his intolerance or demand his resignation as a Republican National Committee member.  He was elected to this position in 2012 after defeating incumbent Saul Anuzis.

Also, in The Herald-Palladium article,

“He said he accepted the position as the state representative to the Republican National Committee so he could help get conservatives like himself elected.

“It’s very important that you get involved with your politicians at a grass roots level and make sure that politician you’re trying to get elected fits certain criteria,” he said. “They must be a fiscal conservative. They must be a moral conservative. And they must be a Constitutional conservative or I won’t endorse them.”

While he was a representative in Lansing, he said he would not vote for a bill if it increased taxes, fines or fees.”

Mr. Agema’s comments are not about conservative values.  They are about his personal hatred of gay people and his repeated comments confirm this.  More importantly, they underscore the attitude and direction of today’s Republican Party.  His opposition to extending domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples in the 1990’s is consistent with current Republican actions that would continue to let health insurance companies discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions.  His claims that gay people acted fraudulently in attempting to obtain health insurance benefits for their partner’s is reprehensible and not supported by the facts.  He has claimed that the city of San Francisco essentially black-mailed his employer, American Airlines into providing such benefits which is also patently false.  While the City of San Francisco did pass such legislation it was partially struck down by the Courts and therefore, did not force American Airlines, or any national company, to abide by it.  American Airlines, as did many other large companies, decided later to implement such benefits as a strictly business decision.

In the 1980’s and early-1990’s, the AIDS epidemic did, in fact, claim the lives of a great many people.  While the great majority of those who died in the United States were gay men, by the late-1980’s, and certainly by the early-1990’s, it was well known that AIDS was not simply a disease of gay men.  That is certainly the case today.  The opposition to affordable health insurance then most assuredly led to the untimely demise of many people in the prime years of their lives.  The current opposition to affordable health insurance for all people will absolutely lead to the untimely demise of many people and not just those affected by HIV and AIDS.  As Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three ghosts during the Christmas season, I wonder if Mr. Agema sees the ghosts of those who have died as a result of his hatred and intolerance?

If the Republican Party is going to continue to permit hatred, lies and intolerance to guide its selection of leaders, the Party will collapse.  This would truly be a tragedy for fiscally-conservative values.  Statements like those made by Mr. Agema must be soundly condemned by the leadership of the Republican Party.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)  Are there any good men in the Republican Party?