Anderson Cooper: Bachmann Suddenly Silent On Gays
Before Michele Bachmann was a contender for the GOP nomination in next year’s race for the White House, she couldn’t stop talking about gays. As a state legislator, the Congresswoman was brimming over with opinions about GLBT Americans, saying that most of them had been abused and declaring that their lives were "very sad" examples of "personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement."
Bachmann and her husband, Marcus Bachmann, run two Christian counseling clinics in which, according to reports such as a recent news segment on ABC News, gay clients are offered so-called "reparative therapy," a treatment based on the assumption that homosexuality is a pathological condition caused by early life trauma such as abuse or inadequate parental attention. Proponents of the therapy say that gays can "choose" to become straight through counseling and prayer, but reputable mental health professionals say that the treatment is ineffective and could even harm gays by increasing a societally-imposed sense of shame and hopelessness.
Bachmann also promoted an amendment to the Minnesota state constitution as a member of that state’s lawmaking body, efforts that did not pay off before she had gone on to Congress, but which laid the groundwork for the ballot initiative that will see Minnesota voters deciding on the rights of gay and lesbian families next year.
Moreover, she slammed efforts by GLBT youth advocates to provide for the needs of gay teens in Minnesota. Bachmann’s congressional district includes the Anoka-Hennepin school district, which has been plagued by a high number of gay youth suicides in recent years; critics have asked whether Bachmann’s high-profile embrace of damaging anti-gay myths might be a contributing factor to an environment that gay youths find intolerably hostile.
Indeed, the Anoka-Hennepin district is the subject of two lawsuits by a total of six teens for its policies regarding anti-gay bullying and classroom discussion of issues connected with sexual orientation TIME Magazine reported at its online newsfeed. The district maintains a "neutral" policy toward issues associated with homosexuality; critics charge that the policy leaves teachers and staff uncertain of how, or whether, they are allowed to intervene in cases of anti-gay persecution. The district settled a prior suit out of court for some $25,000. In that case, two teachers -- not students, but teachers -- were accused of having systematically subjected a student to anti-gay harassment, even though the student was heterosexual.
But now, as CNN’s Anderson Cooper noted in an Aug. 15 "Keeping Them Honest" report, the GOP hopeful -- who once was anything but shy about letting fly with highly charged, controversial statements about gays -- seems to be pulling back on the issue, and has started referring to matters of GLBT equality as "frivolous" and unimportant.
"Bachmann obviously won the Iowa straw poll on Saturday," Cooper said, "but she also seems to be running from her own past statements about sexual orientation and civil rights, refusing to answer questions about her statements."
"I am running for the presidency of the United States, I am not running to be anyone’s judge," Bachmann told NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Aug. 14.
But, as Cooper noted, Bachmann’s words concerning gays have all too often been highly judgmental. She has called use of the word "gay" to describe homosexuals as being "of Satan" for its connotation of happiness, and promoted the idea that being gay makes people miserable in and of itself.
When asked by "Meet the Press" host David Gregory, "Do you think that anyone... thinks you haven’t made a judgment about gays and lesbians" after hearing her past remarks, Bachmann responded, "That’s all I can tell you, is I’m not judging."
"But mainly, she’s just not answering questions on her views about sexual orientation," Cooper commented during the broadcast. "Claiming that millions of gay and lesbian Americans are living in ’personal bondage’ or ’personal despair’ or ’personal enslavement,’ [and] claiming that the very use of the word ’gay’ is satanic, sounds like personal judgment," Cooper continued. "It’s certainly not a fact."
Continued the CNN anchor, "She also refers to a gay and lesbian ’lifestyle,’ by which one can only assume she means it’s a choice." But a speech in which Bachmann had made the claim that gays live a specific "lifestyle" that is distinct from heterosexuals, Cooper noted, Bachmann also suggested that homosexuality is a pathological condition, referring to it as a "disorder."
In that speech, Bachmann struck a familiar tone of "love the sinner," telling her audience, "We need to have profound compassion" for gays. But in a debate earlier this summer, Bachmann showed little compassion for gay and lesbian families, declaring that she would support an amendment to the United States Constitution that would bar marriage rights for any but heterosexual couples -- even though she also said that the issue should be left up to the states to decide for themselves.
Her willingness to speak to the issue aloud notwithstanding, the anti-gay pol made a hard-to-miss statement about gays when she signed on to an intensely anti-gay campaign pledge issued by a fringe right Iowa group. The 14-point agenda also contained racially offensive language, removed after Bachmann and Rick Santorum had signed on, declaring that many African American children were better off during the slavery era than they are now.
Next: Who’s a Family? Not You.