September 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Bachmann: Anti-gay bullying ‘not a federal issue’

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is coming under fire from LGBT advocates for saying anti-gay bullying isn’t a problem for the federal government.

At a rally in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Friday, Minnesota resident Alex Lemon asked Bachmann what she intends to do about the rash of anti-gay school bullying in her district, according to CBS News.

Bachmann reportedly offered a brief response: “That’s not a federal issue.” The GOP presidential hopeful moved on to shake hands with the next rally attendee.

A U.S. House member who represents Minnesota in Congress, Bachmann has become associated with the issue of anti-gay bullying because of the rash of teen suicides in her congressional district. Over the past two years, nine youths have committed suicide in the Anoka-Hennepin school district, the largest in Minnesota. At least four suicide victims were victims of bullying because they were gay or perceived to be gay.

In July, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the district on behalf of students who say they experienced harassment and violence as a result of an anti-gay environment. The Education and Justice departments are also investigating the district over the issue.

Minnesota resident Tammy Aaberg met with Bachmann’s staffers on Thursday in her Waite Park, Minn., district office to urge the lawmaker to speak out against bullying. Aaberg’s 15-year-old son, Justin, hanged himself in July 2010 after being subjected to anti-gay harassment.

LGBT advocates pounced on Bachmann for rejecting the idea that the federal government should have a role in stopping anti-gay bullying in schools.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, said Bachmann’s remarks at the rally demonstrate “her ignorance and why she’s not worthy of the presidency.”

“Two bills to make schools safer for all kids are pending before Congress and in just a few days, the White House will host a second summit on the issue,” Sainz said. “It most certainly is a federal issue.”

Daryl Presgraves, spokesperson for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, called the Republican presidential candidate’s comments “disappointing.”

“Given her visibility and the well-documented experiences of students being bullied in her own district, it’s disappointing that Rep. Bachmann disagrees with the notion that the safety of all children is a universal concern, not one limited by jurisdiction,” Presgraves said.

Caleb Laiseki, a 16-year-old national advocate for LGBT youth, also maintained bullying should be under the purview of the federal government.

“A national issue is when an issue is occurring throughout the entire nation,” Laiseki said. “Therefore, when incidents of suicides and bullying are occurring in all fifty-states, it clarifies that this a national issue that needs prompt solutions.”

Legislation pending before Congress known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act aims to stop the bullying of LGBT students in schools. President Obama has yet to endorse either of these bills.

But the Obama administration has interpreted existing federal law prohibiting schools from discriminating on the basis on gender to apply in some circumstances to LGBT youth. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibit harassment based on gender.

Additionally, the White House held a bullying summit in March. Next week, the Education Department is hosting its second annual bullying prevention summit at the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C.

Bachmann has an extensive anti-gay voting history as a member of Congress and has taken anti-gay positions in her pursuit of the White House. She backs a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and has pledged to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected president.

The lawmaker co-owns with her spouse, Marcus Bachmann, a faith-based therapy center that has been revealed in engage in widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy aimed at turning gay people into being straight. The clinic has reportedly been the recipient of at least $137,000 in Medicaid funds since 2005. Bachmann has refused to answer questions about this practice at her clinic or whether federal funds have subsidized it.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Bachman doesn’t get to define what is and what is not a federal or state issue, when it comes to equal rigthts that are guaranteed to all citizens , but if ( as she says it it is not an issue, what the hell is she doing, taking government money to run a discredited, phony, fraudulent x-gay ministry.

  • Also, discrimination against an unprotected minority sure as heck is a federal issue. Stop using your religion to dictate my life, Bachman.

  • Shame on you, Bachman!!! You are a disgrace with a capital “D.”

  • Children why so upset? Surely by now you realize the Republicans exist to bully. It will only be when their kind is being is close to extinction that they will finally understand what it is like to suffer as an unprotected part of humanity.

  • And she calls herself a Christian. This is why people don’t want anything with Jesus. Luckily he’s not actually like her. Nevertheless, if cyber bullying and other bully has been a federal offense then this is no different. If she had any compassion at all she would make it a federal issue. But then again she has too many other important issues to deal with. Like what stupid phrase to say next.

  • If anti-gay bullying ISN’T a federal issue, then tell the feds to stop bullying gays by not allowing them to wed!

  • Any conservative will tell you the solution for gay bullying is simple. If you don’t want to be bullied, you shouldn’t be gay.

  • It’s not a federal issue, it’s a state issue. States should be able to deal with ths matter in their own way. In Minnesota, the state could refer gays to Bachmann and Associates for reparitive therapy. In Alabama, on the other hand, they should be able to just burn a white cross on the lawn

  • Oh really, Ms. Bachman? Are Federal Elections a federal matter?

  • Internationally, no-action to prevent such tragedies is called “Crimes Against Humanity”. So of course, Bachmann would not want to incriminate herself. I can only suppose that the “FEDERAL” Department of Justice is watching with keen interest… since that is their job. And their stated purpose for existing.

  • Jeepers, if bullies can’t kick around the gay kids, where will the Bachmanns get more clients for their “therapy” scam?

  • Isn’t Bachmann a lawyer? If bullying isn’t a federal question, why are the suits moving forward in federal court?

  • Michele Bachmann and her husband are both very far out. Not good for the U.S. She is running on her own “gay agenda” platform. We are closing schools, laying people off. Families are being foreclosed on and being put out in the streets. And all this Republican running for President and her husband can do is talk about is “praying away the gay”. It is a good money maker for her, but we have bigger things to do, and I am hopping God has too. If you or your church has the gay agenda on your mind, all the time you may need to set down and talk with someone. We need to start looking at what is best for the country. Not our own religion’s views, that blow in the wind.

  • It is a federal matter when there has been a breakdown in law and order in a state, as when a state decides not to enforce the rights of minorities. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower called out the National Guard when state officials in Arkansas refused to protect African-American schoolchildren attending an integrated public high school.

  • Young Gay people need to fight back and fight back hard, stop being victims and start kicking ass, I have had enough of turning the other cheek, its time to really fight back and be serious about it

  • Wow what a disgusting human being ! I just can’t believe people like this are even allowed to run for anything . She needs to just go away! I hope and pray no one votes for her .

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