POLITICS
12/09/2013 07:56 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

Homophobic RNC Committee Member Accuses Gay Colleagues Of Manipulating Health Benefits (UPDATE)

WASHINGTON -- An official associated with the Republican National Committee made head-turning comments at a GOP holiday party last week, accusing gay individuals of pushing health care reform because they die earlier in life.

Speaking at Berrien County Republican Party Holiday Reception last Thursday, RNC Committee member Dave Agema said that while working with American Airlines, he repeatedly witnessed gay colleagues claiming AIDS victims as lovers, just so they could get health care coverage. Via the Herald Palladium, a southwest Michigan paper:

[Agema] has taken flak nationally for his stance against gay marriage, but he said he doesn't mind because while working at American Airlines, 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."

Multiple requests for comment and clarification made to Agema were not returned.

Agema has long been a vocal opponent of the gay community. In April, Agema likened being gay to being an alcoholic, encouraging radio show listeners to help members of the homosexual community "get out of it."

"So if you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend, for example, dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen?" he asked during the "Washington Watch Live with Tony Perkins" radio program in April. "Or would you speak up and say, 'hey, I want to help you.'"

Dennis Lennox, a Republican strategist and party delegate from Michigan's Grand Traverse County who has been a vocal critic of Agema, told HuffPost he expects the Michigan Republican State Committee to discuss the latest comments when they meet over the weekend.

"Dave Agema's hateful rhetoric and unabashed bigotry have no place in our Republican Party," Lennox said. "Republicans will not win a national governing majority until Mr. Agema's extremist behavior is no longer tolerated."

The Republican National Committee did not return an immediate request for comment.

Sam Stein contributed reporting.

UPDATE:
In an email to supporters acquired by HuffPost, Agema said his words were "twisted... far out of context," and chastised his Republican colleagues for spreading the vitriol.

Still, Agema is standing by his anti-gay statements.

"I was simply making a point about my opposition to same sex benefits and for traditional marriage." Agema wrote in the email. "I stand by my words as I said them despite efforts by others to twist the meaning of those words."

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