FERNDALE – As Republicans continue to condone the hateful, anti-gay comments of their Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, Democrats brought out the big guns for a community forum at Affirmations featuring Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“In Michigan, and all over the country we’ve seen example after example of the GOP’s failure to speak out against intolerant, insensitive remarks like those we heard from Representative Agema a few days ago,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Disrespectful comments like his and the GOP’s decision to block legislation that protects LGBT Americans from discrimination remind us just how out of touch the GOP is with Michigan and the American people.”
Hailing from South Florida, Wasserman Schultz represents what she calls “the straight-friendly city” of Miami Beach. She came to Michigan in response to Agema’s most recent remarks, where he said “I stand for traditional marriage, no homosexual ones… The family unit is the basic unit in society. When you tear the family apart, you tear the country apart.” He also claimed that gay people want free medical care because they are dying of AIDS.
Wasserman Schultz stood by other Democratic leaders including Gubernatorial Candidate Mark Schauer, U.S. Senate Candidate Gary Peters, Congressman Sandy Levin, and Between The Lines Publisher and LGBT Caucus Vice Chair Jan Stevenson. Each shared their efforts to stand up for equality.
The spirit of the event was summed up by the words of Affirmation’s Executive Director Dave Garcia. “I was thinking on my drive here a lot about being on the playground at school and especially when you’re gay. But it’s not just a gay thing. I think all of us have times in our lives when we’re surrounded by a group of people that might be calling us names, who are attacking us in some way. Gay or straight. And I think that when that’s happening to you, and you’re the only one, it feels like this group could hurt you,” he said. “That one person stands up for you and steps in there with you and says ‘Alright, but you’re going to have to fight me too.’ Man you are that person’s friend for the rest of your life.
“And we have some folks in Lansing who are surrounding us and calling us names and worse. Their actions are hurting us and what hurts the most is when you look around that group on the playground and you see your friends, and they’re staying quiet. That hurts more than the ones calling you names. And we’ve had some Democrats and allies who have said the right things, but not acted. And I think those are the things we need to change. And so you will have the gay community’s loyalty if you fight with us.”
From those on stage to the many elected officials in the room, solidarity for LGBT issues is an important part of the Democratic platform.
Shauer said that he would lead on the issue of equality. “The current occupant of the Governor’s Office signed a law banning domestic partner benefits. Somehow he thinks we can get better by taking things away from people and marginalizing them. And just yesterday when asked about Elliott Larsen, he said he doesn’t plan to lead on the issue. I plan to lead,” he said.
Peters spoke of his work as a U.S. Congressman in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, giving military personnel the right and freedom to be open about their sexual orientation. He is currently fighting to have discharge statuses changed for those who were “dishonorably discharged” because of being gay. He also spoke of the response Agema got from his fellow Republicans at the Republican State Central Meeting over the weekend, stating that instead of condemning Agema, they gave him a standing ovation.
Wasserman Schultz said, “Intolerance is in the Republican Party’s DNA,” and poked fun at the RNC’s decision to send Rand Paul to do outreach for African American voters. “Of all people to send up here to do an African American outreach, they send the guy who thinks that the Civil Rights Act should never have become law? It just makes you scratch your head and wonder.”
She encouraged people to support LGBT-friendly candidates. “We know that the other side thinks the most precious resource they have is money…but as active Democrats we know that the most precious resource that you can give is your time. That’s how we ran circles around the Republicans in the last election. That’s how we reelected Barrack Obama President of the United States,” Wasserman Schultz said.
In Michigan a record-number of openly gay candidates are running for the State Legislature. Speaking for the LGBT Caucus, Stevenson informed the crowd of four State House candidates and one State Senate candidate.
Garnet Lewis could be the first lesbian State Senator. She is running in the 32nd District which includes Saginaw, Zilwaukee, Tittabawassee Township, Frankenmuth and Swartz Creek. Aaryn Richard is running for State Representative in the 85th District which includes Owosso. Jon Hoadley is running for State Representative in the 60th District which includes Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Township. Jeremy Moss is running for State Representative in the 35th District which includes Southfield and Lathrup Village. And Rudy Serra is running for State Representative for the 27th District which is made up of several South Oakland County communities including Hazel Park, Ferndale, and Berkley.