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(This article has been updated to report that former state Rep. Paul DeWeese voted in 2000 for legislation to deny funding to colleges and universities for promoting anything other than heterosexual monogamy.)
TUESDAY, July 31 — The president of a local gay rights political action committee has changed her explanation of why it rated House legislative candidate Paul DeWeese “negative.”
Last week, LAHR Pac’s president, Penny Gardner, said it was because of DeWeese’s “sleaziness.” She was referring to his being stripped of his medical license for his opioid prescribing practices and being convicted in a federal court of health insurance fraud.
But on Monday, Gardner said it was not that at all. Instead, it was because of his record on gay rights issues while serving in the House from 1999 to 2003. DeWeese, who is seeking to represent Lansing as a Democrat, was a Republican from Williamston when he was in office.
“I misspoke as my quote about DeWeese was my personal feeling, not the discussion or decision about his LAHR PAC rating,” she wrote, referring to calling his behavior sleazy.
“It is Mr. DeWeese’s history which earned him the negative rating,” she wrote.
“DeWeese voted to take funding away from any university offering a course promoting anything but heterosexual monogamy. He also sent a letter to the Dept of Ed complaining about a gay speaker appearing at Grand Haven High school.”
Asked to respond, DeWeese said : “I do not remember voting to take funding away from any university offering a course promoting anything but heterosexual monogamy. And I cannot imagine that I ever wrote a letter to the Department of Education complaining about a gay speaker appearing at Grand Haven High School.”
However, after he responded, City Pulse found evidence that he had signed the letter.
A 2000 editorial in the Lansing State Journal criticized DeWeese for having signed the letter.
Moreover, the legislative record shows that DeWeese voted for an unsuccessful amendment to a funding bill that would have denied money to colleges and universities that did not certify they do not offer courses that promote anything other than heterosexual monogamy. He did so in a roll call vote on May 23, 2000.
Efforts to reach DeWeese for further comment were unsuccessful.
Earlier, DeWeese said in a written statement that his views on gay rights issues “changed dramatically over a number of years between 1996 and 2006.”
“Initially I became aware of discrimination against members of this community and I embraced a strong commitment to ensuring that our laws ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” he wrote. “I was initially against legal recognition of gay unions. In my journey I initially came to support legal recognition of "civil unions" for gay/lesbian people. But later I came to understand that civil unions would not provide the protections, benefits and public recognition that members of the LGBT community deserved."
Gardner addressed his evolution in her letter.
“In recent years DeWeese has expressed verbal support for some LGBT issues,” she wrote. “But we have found the best indicator of support is what a politician does in office not what a politician says. There are many candidates who have supported LGBT citizens in mid-Michigan when it was not so popular. Given DeWeese's previous actions fighting LGBT rights, we could not rate him the same as those that have shown consistent support.
“LAHR PAC is pleased to see politicians evolve on our issues and part of our missions is to encourage that evolution. But when we have a record of them fighting against us we cannot, regardless of who they are related to or what they say, assume they are on our side and that their future actions will reflect their words.”