The anti-gay rhetoric and voting record of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) came under scrutiny this week in the wake of her announcement that she would run for the White House in 2012.
In a speech last week in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, the Tea Party favorite pledged to continue advancing conservative causes as she formally declared her candidacy.
“I want to bring a voice, your voice, to the White House, just as I have brought your voice to the halls of Congress to secure the promise of the future for our generation and generations to come,” Bachmann said.
But based on her voting record in Congress since she started representing Minnesota in the U.S. House in 2007, a Bachmann presidency would likely be bad news for LGBT Americans.
In addition to voting against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, she also opposed hate crimes legislation.
Additionally, Bachmann has called for passage of a federal constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country, even though she was elected to Congress too late to vote on such a measure when it came before lawmakers.
As a state senator in Minnesota, Bachmann sponsored legislation to make a ban on same-sex marriage part of the state constitution. The amendment that Minnesota voters will vote on in 2012 is similar to the measure she proposed at that time.
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, predicted that a Bachmann presidency would mark a major setback for LGBT rights.
“A President Bachmann would mean a wholesale reversal from the gains we’ve seen over the past few years,” Cole-Schwartz said. “Not only would we see policy positions that hurt our families, the level of anti-LGBT rhetoric would no doubt rise as would the use of our community as a political wedge issue.”
The Bachmann campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
Bachmann could become a major player in the 2012 presidential campaign if she performs well in the early primary states and some experts have speculated that she would make a strong vice presidential pick. A favorite among the Tea Party wing of the GOP, Bachmann is already polling well in her home state of Iowa, where social conservatives tend to fare well in the GOP caucus.
According to a poll published June 26, Bachmann is nearly tied in Iowa with frontrunner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found that Romney was favored by 23 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers while Bachmann was supported by 22 percent.
Additionally, a poll published Wednesday by Public Policy Polling found Bachmann would place a strong second in the New Hampshire primary, even though the GOP in the state has more libertarian leanings. Romney leads in the state with the support of 25 percent of respondents, but Bachmann comes in second at 18 percent. She jumped 14 points in the last three months.
Bachmann has said recently that marriage should be left to the states to decide. However, she has always reiterated her support for the Federal Marriage Amendment — a contradiction because ratification of that measure would define marriage at the federal level.
During her appearance June 13 in the Republican presidential debate, Bachmann called for enactment of a Federal Marriage Amendment as she said she wouldn’t interfere with New Hampshire’s law allowing same-sex marriage.
“I do support a constitutional amendment on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law,” Bachmann said.
Also during the debate, Bachmann said she would have kept “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in place.
“I would want to confer with our commanders-in-chief and also with the Joint Chiefs of Staff because I want to know how it was being implemented and if it had the detrimental effects that have been suggested will come,” Bachmann said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen came out in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in February. Some of the military service chiefs — most notably Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos — opposed repeal of the military’s gay ban before Congress acted to lift the law, but each has said they can implement open service.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, acknowledged his organization and Bachmann don’t “see eye-to-eye” on LGBT issues, but said her more nuanced rhetoric on marriage was noteworthy.
“We’ve been arguing all along that DOMA is incursion on states rights,” Cooper said. “It’s interesting to see her kind of move in that direction because that’s a nuance. It doesn’t mean that she’s all of a sudden a champion of fundamental rights by any means, but it’s interesting that she’s being forced to shift.”
In addition to her anti-gay stances on marriage and the military, Bachmann has also engaged in anti-gay political rhetoric throughout her career.
The slightly more nuanced — if contradictory — position that Bachmman has adopted on marriage is different from what she previously stated. According to the Washington Post, Bachmann has called marriage “probably the biggest issue that will impact our state and our nation in the last, at least, 30 years.”
Additionally, in the fight to push for a same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota in 2004, Bachmann said a member of her family is gay and called it “a very sad life. It’s part of Satan.” According to the Post, her stepsister, Helen LaFave, is gay and in 2006 publicly opposed the ban.
Scott Dibble, a gay Democratic state senator in Minnesota, said in a Post interview that Bachmann argued that advancing gay rights could result in children being “lured into trying homosexuality out” and that “the reason for high divorce rates in Scandinavian countries was that they offered equality” to LGBT people.
But Bachmann could be overshadowed in her anti-gay views by her husband, Marcus Bachmann, a therapist who runs a faith-based counseling center. His practice reportedly offers discredited conversion therapy for LGBT people, although he’s said that he doesn’t try to convert gay people who say “they want to stay homosexual.”
In an interview last year with a Christian radio show, Marcus Bachmann compared gays to “barbarians” and said they “need to be educated, need to be disciplined.”
“Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road,” he said. “That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps.”
Marcus Bachmann is close to his wife’s political campaign. According to the Washington Post, Bachmann recently called himself his wife’s “strategist” and has acted as her media planner, travel assistant and personal shopper.
Despite Bachmann’s anti-gay record, Log Cabin’s Cooper said the country has grown more supportive of LGBT rights since the last presidential election and the GOP has noticed.
“Looking at where are we are in 2011 heading off the 2012 cycle, it’s a much different world than it was in the ’08 cycle, and a far different world than it was in ’04 and 2000,” Cooper said. “We’re in a much different state as a country than we have ever been, and it is going to force campaigns to evaluate these issues.”