Rep. Mike Rogers Under Fire For Homophobic Joke

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) is facing heat from a gay rights group for reportedly making homophobic comments during a recent speech before hundreds of realtors.

In the speech, delivered Jan. 23 during the Alabama Association of Realtors' board of directors meeting, Rogers allegedly made derogatory comments about gay people and criticized the atmosphere in Washington, D.C.

"You allegedly joked about how nice it was to be called 'Honey' and 'Sweetie' by a woman at an Alabama restaurant rather than a D.C. men's room," Ben Cooper, chair of Equality Alabama, wrote in a Jan. 28 letter to Rogers. "And you went on to mock our nation's capitol as a 'cross between Detroit and San Francisco' -- an obvious reference to Detroit's racial makeup and San Francisco's vibrant gay culture."

"Comments like these are racist, homophobic, and hurtful, and they will not be tolerated," added Cooper.

Michael Hansen, Equality Alabama's communications director, told The Huffington Post his group heard about the remarks from several AAR members who attended Rogers' speech. One member was so offended that he and his colleagues walked out. Another member confronted the congressman after the event, Hansen said, to which Rogers reportedly replied, "Bring it on."

Rogers' office did not return a request for comment from The Huffington Post.

The AAR issued a statement in response to Rogers' remarks, according to AL.com, which first reported the controversy.

"At the Board of Directors meeting this morning one of our speakers made some remarks that were inappropriate and offensive to some of our members," the statement said. "Those remarks are not reflective of AAR or our policies. Moving forward we will endeavor to prevent such inappropriate remarks at our events or meetings."

Hansen said he emailed the letter to Rogers' chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and press secretary on Friday but has yet to hear back. The group, however, hopes the congressman or one of his staffers will be attending the Feb. 16 Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence in Montgomery, which will remember LGBT victims of hate crimes.

"I would like to point out that we are approaching the 15th anniversary of the death of Billy Jack Gaither, who was brutally beaten with an ax handle, thrown onto a pile of tires and set on fire," Cooper wrote in the letter. "Billy Jack was murdered because he was gay. He was from your district."

"When you, an elected leader and lawmaker, make comments in public that belittle and demean the very core of LGBT people's being," added Cooper, "you endorse a culture that says it's OK to bully people for who they are or whom they love. It is not."

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