Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Wednesday announced her exit from the race for the White House — much to the delight of LGBT advocates who abhorred the anti-gay positions she espoused during her campaign.
Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite who represents Minnesota in Congress, declared she was suspending her campaign during a news conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday after her dismal showing in the Republican Iowa caucuses.
“The people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” Bachmann said.
In the Iowa Republican caucus, Bachmann came in sixth place and collected around five percent of the vote, even though the Hawkeye State is where she was born.
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Calling on followers to rally around whomever the Republican Party selects as its presidential nominee, Bachmann said she began her campaign as a citizen who “believes in the foundation and in the greatness of our American principles.”
“Our principles derive their meaning from the Founders’ beliefs, which were rooted in the immutable truths of the Holy Scripture, the Bible,” she said.
Throughout the campaign — and over the course of her four years in Congress — Bachmann’s anti-gay positions vexed LGBT advocates who dreaded the prospects of her presidency.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Bachmann’s decision to leave the race was appropriate because she focused too much on anti-gay rhetoric during her campaign.
“Michele Bachmann is not and cannot be a serious contender for the presidency, and Log Cabin Republicans are happy to see her step aside,” Cooper said. “While her focus on limited government and repealing the failed policies of President Obama was a positive, her focus on divisive social issues demonstrated her lack of credibility.”
Cooper said Bachmann’s lackluster performance in the Iowa caucuses should demonstrate to aspiring politicians that “earning a reputation for antigay extremism is a harmful distraction that ultimately leads to failure.”
Bachmann reiterated many times throughout her campaign her belief that marriage should be restricted to one man, one woman and was among the candidates who signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committing her to oppose same-sex marriage as president. By signing the document, Bachmann promised to back a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country and to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Bachmann was also among the candidates who have pledged to restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected to the White House.
In the course of her career in Congress, Bachmann voted against hate crimes protections legislation, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She was elected to Congress too late to have voted on the Federal Marriage Amendment in either 2004 or 2006.
Bachmann has even expressed indifference to anti-gay bullying over the course of her campaign. Asked what she would do about bullying at rally in Costa Mesa, Calif., in September, Bachmann replied, “That’s not a federal issue.” The lawmaker has become associated with the issue of anti-gay bullying because of the rash of teen suicides in her congressional district.
The candidate has also refused to comment during her campaign on past anti-gay comments she made in 2004. Bachmann had once said ‘Gays live a very sad life” and “it’s part of Satan.”
Both David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and, on the day of the Iowa caucuses, Soledad O’Brien on CNN asked Bachmann whether she stands by those comments, but the candidate declined to answer. In response to O’Brien, Bachmann said bringing up her old statements was “bizarre.”
“It’s a bizarre thing to bring up,” Bachmann said. “Today is the election. What people recognize is that the most important issue that people will be looking at is, ‘Who is the best person to deal with the economy?’”
Pressed by O’Brien on the matter, Bachmann said, “It’s a gotcha question coming way out of the past. I stand very strong for marriage between one man and one woman.”
Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said Bachmann’s positions made her a candidate who was less than worthy of the White House.
“Michelle Bachmann has one of the worst records on LGBT issues of a presidential candidate in a long time,” Cole-Schwartz said. “Unfortunately though, her exit from the race still leaves a field full of candidates who want constitutional amendments to ban marriage equality, a return to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and continued workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”
Among the candidates who are touting anti-gay views and still seeking the presidency is Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He’s renowned for an anti-gay ad in which he says, “There’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
In the Iowa caucuses, Perry finished in fifth place and said after the results he was returning to Texas to determine whether he should stay in the race. But the next day, he apparently decided to remain in contention. Via Twitter, Perry said, “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State…Here we come South Carolina!!!”
But Bachmann was distinctive among other anti-gay candidates because activists revealed that she co-owned with her husband, Marcus Bachmann, a clinic offering widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy aimed at turning gay people into being straight.
Feigning a desire to change his sexual orientation, John Becker, an activist with Truth Wins Out, caught on tape sessions with counselor Timothy Wiertzema, who told him he could change from being gay to straight.
Bachmann has refused to answer questions about the clinic, which is operated by her spouse. During an appearance at the National Press Club in July, Bachmann declined to directly answer a question from the Washington Blade on whether she thinks people can change their sexual orientation through reparative therapy or if federal funds are subsidizing this practice at her clinic.
“I’m extremely proud of my husband,” Bachmann said. “I have tremendous respect and admiration for him, and we’ll celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary this coming September. But I am running for the presidency of the United States. My husband is not running for the presidency, neither are my children, neither is our business, neither is our foster children. And I am more than happy to stand for questions on running for presidency of the United States.”
Responding to Bachmann’s exit, Becker said he’s happy to see the candidate go, but speculated she might increase her anti-gay activity now that she no longer wants to represent a national constituency.
“The end of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign is good news for America’s LGBT community because of her dangerously extreme anti-gay views, and Truth Wins Out is proud to have helped draw attention to that extremism by exposing the ‘ex-gay therapy’ offered at the Bachmann clinic,” Becker said. “However, we should not take today’s announcement to mean that we’ve heard the last of Michele Bachmann. When she returns to Congress, her homophobia is likely to intensify now that she doesn’t need to try and appear presidential.”