Republican National Committee member Dave Agema has never bothered to hide his anti-gay views. But he reserves his most despicable commentary for his Facebook friends.
Earlier this month, the former member of the Michigan House of Representatives posted an article on his page about the Russian anti-gay propaganda law with the comment: “Common sense in Russia.”
This pattern of abuse of gays and lesbians has prompted some chiding from leading Republicans. But Agema has never been asked to step down from his party post and last year he saw his resolution reaffirming the party’s stance against same-sex marriage unanimously approved by the RNC. The tolerance for Agema’s intolerance was too much for Jimmy LaSalvia, founder of the gay Republican group GOProud. The activist announced last week that he had left the party.
Now, a prominent Michigan Republican has finally spoken out against a “culture of intolerance.” Betsy DeVos has called on Agema to resign and for chairman Reince Priebus to remove him from the RNC if the committeeman refuses to do so.
“The expectation of leaders in a party is to stand up in situations like this,” DeVos, former chairperson of Michigan’s GOP, told The Detroit News. “Failing to do so will have consequences.”
The obvious implication is that donations will be withheld if Agema retains his position.
DeVos is a member of the royal family of Michigan conservative politics. Her husband — an heir to the Amway fortune — was a former GOP nominee for governor and a major financial backer of the anti-union law passed by a lame-duck state legislature in 2012. Her brother, Erik Prince, worked in George H.W. Bush’s White House and became the founder and former CEO of the private military firm Blackwater, which is now known as Academi.
Thus her threat has real significance — and it is also wrought with real hypocrisy.
DeVos’ mother Elsa Prince gave $450,000 to help pass California’s Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in California in 2008. A group funded by her husband used anti-gay rhetoric to push his pet issue of school choice and the schools he backs use taxpayer-funded textbooks that push anti-gay propaganda. His parents have given more than $5 million to Focus on the Family, a leading purveyor of the myth that homosexuality is a sinful “lifestyle” that can be cured.
In 2004, the DeVos and Prince families collectively donated $125,000 to help ban marriage equality, Michigan Democrats communications director Joshua Pugh pointed out. Pugh added that DeVos seems to have no problem with Governor Rick Synder (R-MI) signing a ban on domestic-partner benefits, in an era where equal marriage is quickly becoming the norm in America.
DeVos was likely motivated by a desire to help probable U.S. Senate nominee Terri Lynn Land, a GOP committee member who has been reluctant to comment on Agema for fear of alienating her base. Republicans clearly don’t want to go into a general election in a state President Obama won by 9.5 percent having one of the nation’s foremost anti-gay voices chained to them.
It has taken years for RNC chairman Priebus to even speak out against Agema and thus far only one prominent Republican is demanding his resignation. Perhaps expecting Republicans to catch up with the rest of America is too much to ask.