Earlier this summer, Michele Bachmann took to an outdoor podium in front of her "friends and family" and entered the race for president, telling those assembled, "It's great to be in Iowa and even better to be in Waterloo where I was born."
The fact that Bachmann was born in Waterloo has become something of a go-to talking point for the Minnesota congresswoman whenever she campaigns in the Hawkeye State. In fact, it probably had something to do with her win at the Ames Straw Poll.
Ask her, and she'll talk your ear off about her folksy Iowa roots but use the words "gay" or "lesbian" in a question and you'd think she was a timid church mouse.
For weeks Bachmann has been dodging press questions about her past comments regarding the gay and lesbian community and related issues. The scenario usually plays out something like this: Bachmann is asked about marriage equality or the "reparative therapy" clinics run by her husband that attempt to magically transform gay people into straight, she ignores the question and when pressed insists that she is running for president to fix the economy not to get "involved in light, frivolous matters."
To Bachmann, legal equality and simple human dignity for a significant number of American citizens may now be "frivolous matters" but it is hard to think of another issue that has so monopolized the focus of her entire career as a public servant.
Long before she appeared on the national stage, Bachmann had harsh, hateful words for the LGBT community. She called being gay a "sexual dysfunction" and said if marriage equality were the law of the land, parents would be unable to "protect" their children. She has said that being gay is akin to being in "bondage" and that it is "part of Satan I think to say that this is 'gay.' It's anything but gay."
I can't even begin to imagine what she says about gay men and lesbians when she's behind closed doors.
Beyond her words, Bachmann's actions have been equally, if not more, troubling. As a state senator, Bachmann sponsored a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which was already illegal in Minnesota. As the LGBT community organized against the amendment, Bachmann was photographed hiding in the bushes spying on a rally at the state capital in opposition to her efforts.
Then there was the time she claimed -- get this -- a former nun held her captive in a Minnesota ladies room. You read that right.
After ending a town hall meeting twenty minutes early when the same-sex marriage subject was broached, Bachmann reportedly excused herself to a restroom where she was confronted by two women -- one, a former nun -- who wanted to discuss the marriage issue further. It was then that Senator Bachmann screamed, "Help! I'm being held against my will!" She fled, "crying," to her vehicle waiting outside. According to the police report, Bachmann was, "absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her." The local county attorney declined to prosecute the women, writing that it was clear the pair "simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann."
Back in Waterloo, just seven weeks after Bachmann's campaign announcement, an African American teenager was beaten to death. Marcellus Richard Andrews was gay and it cost him his life in Michele Bachmann's hometown. His life was anything but "frivolous."
When politicians like Bachmann make nasty comments about gay people and support government-sanctioned discrimination that treats LGBT Americans as something less than equal, they make it easier for the seeds of hate to take hold. In the minds of those capable of committing these horrible hate crimes, if gay men and lesbians aren't legally permitted to pursue happiness, why give them liberty? Why allow them to live?
People like Marcellus Richard Andrews deserve to know how a Bachmann presidency would impact their lives. They deserve to know why a leading candidate for president would say such hateful things about them and their friends.
Given her track record, some may think Bachmann's new hushed approach to LGBT issues is an improvement over her history of outspoken homophobia. After all, she is no longer slinging insults left and right or emphasizing her opposition on issues of importance to the LGBT community.
To borrow a phrase used by AIDS activists throughout the 1980s, her silence equals death.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, DC. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns and updates by email.
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