In the summer of 1969, riots erupted in and around New York City's Stonewall Inn as throngs of angry lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, exhausted by years of harassment, confronted police officers. Facing yet another bar raid designed to intimidate, these courageous would-be activists decided to stand up and, in doing so, began the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
Forty-two years later, as I marched down Christopher Street passing the Stonewall Inn during the annual pride parade, I was met by an entirely different atmosphere, one of celebration and gratitude.
With the stroke of a pen, Governor Andrew Cuomo brought marriage equality to the Empire State, and with it, gay men and lesbians became eligible for the 1,324 rights and responsibilities enjoyed by their straight counterparts living in committed, loving relationships.
Cuomo was hardly alone in the fight for marriage equality in New York. After the legislation cleared the State Assembly with 80 votes, it passed in the GOP-controlled State Senate when four Republicans bucked their party line and voted for equality.
Talk about a demonstration of GOPride.
The Party of Lincoln -- yes, a small fraction, but still -- took up his mantle and once again made things better for an entire group of people.
Unfortunately, some of the candidates for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination are little more than a speech away from inciting hate crimes.
Let's take the GOP's great white hope du jour as our example: Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has focused much of her attention during her career in public service on the persecution of the LGBT community.
Before we dig too deep, it is important to point out that Bachmann's husband Marcus apparently believes in "reparative therapy" to transform gay people into straight. Marcus Bachmann, a Christian counselor who has reportedly provided such treatment, said of lesbians and gay men, "We have to understand that barbarians need to be educated, need to be disciplined. And just because someone thinks (they are gay) or feels it doesn't mean we need to go down that road."
It must make it easy to slime gays and lesbians with hogwash when you don't even see them as humans. The Minnesota congresswoman, too, has had harsh, hateful words for the LGBT community. She's 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 hate to break it to the congresswoman, but children don't need protection from the LGBT community; they need protection from hate mongers like her.
Beyond her words, Bachmann's actions have been equally troubling, if not more so.
As a state senator, Bachmann sponsored a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which was already illegal in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. As the LGBT community organized against the amendment, Bachman 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 that a former nun held her captive in a Minnesota ladies room. You read that right.
After ending a town hall meeting 20 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 marriage equality and theology with Bachmann. It was then that Senator Bachmann screamed, "Help! I'm being held against my will!" She then 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 two women "simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann."
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Republican presidential candidate currently occupying center stage.
With few exceptions, the remaining leading GOP contenders don't shape up much better than Bachmann when it comes to the simple human dignity and legal equality of the LGBT community.
While not surprising, it really is a shame that these White House hopefuls haven't an ounce of the courage displayed by a handful of Republicans in the New York State Senate.
Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic political consultant at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.
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