ON MAY 14, Minnesota became the twelfth state in the union to legalize gay marriage. Two weeks later, Michele Bachmann, the Republican Congresswoman from that same Minnesota, announced her decision to not seek re-election. These two A-wire items, as I’m hardly the first to suggest, are not unrelated.
The Tea Party darling and doomed presidential candidate is famously and virulently homophobic. Here’s what the Congresswoman had to say about gay marriage a few weeks ago [1. Thanks to Towleroad for this clip]
You see if we retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage – because it is one man, one woman – because God said it is. Not because it’s poll tested – because God said it is. And life – not because it’s poll tested, because God stands for life. He made us in his image and likeness. And if we tread too softly on issues, like taking on Islamic jihad, and if we fight too timidly, and if we strive too meekly, then I think we all understand we very easily could come face to face with defeat, and then our nation would in fact pay a great and a lasting price, one that none of us wants to face.
In Bachmannian logic, gay marriage is just as much a threat to America as Islamic jihad. Seventy-seven-year-old Phyllis Siegal tying the knot with her longtime partner, 85-year-old Connie Kopelov, and thus acquiring the ability to legally visit her in the hospital and care for her in her old age, is exactly the same thing as flying hijacked airplanes into New York skyscrapers.
The recent remarks were not the first time the Congresswoman has made such outlandish, paranoid, and otherwise idiotic claims on the subject of homosexuality.
Back in 2004, when Bachmann was lobbying for a gay marriage ban in Minnesota, she told “Prophetic Views Behind The News” radio host Jan Markell: “It isn’t that some gay will get some rights. It’s that everyone else in our state will lose rights. For instance, parents will lose the right to protect and direct the upbringing of their children. Because our K-12 public school system, of which ninety per cent of all youth are in the public school system, they will be required to learn that homosexuality is normal, equal and perhaps you should try it. And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality.”
It’s better, Bachmann suggests, to preach that homosexuality is an abomination, as it says in the Bible right after the part where Lot has drunken sex with his daughters, to encourage the bullying of “sissies,” and to humiliate gay children to such a degree that they commit suicide, than to teach that sexual orientation is no more a choice than skin color.
In addition to the news in Minnesota, May also saw a spate of anti-gay violence—what can justly be termed hate crimes—in Manhattan, of all places. (Jeff Nishball, who was out to dinner with his partner Tony not far from where one such incident took place, wrote eloquently about this on these pages.) As disturbing and despicable as the attacks were, I see them as the death throes of homophobia in this country. Small comfort to the victims of the crimes and their friends and families, I realize, and easy to say for me—a married straight man living in gay-friendly New Paltz, N.Y., where our mayor, Jason West, heroically performed same-sex marriages at Village Hall in 2004—but nonetheless true.
The tide has turned, and the waves of inclusivity and fairness have now washed over Bachmann’s home state of Minnesota, cleansing it from the hateful stink of her homophobia. Fifty years from now, her election to public office will seem shocking, and her terms in office will be seen as a blemish on the House of Representatives.
But we still have a long way to go, and a lot of deep-seated damage to undo.
Gays and lesbians have been, and remain, the victims of institutionalized discrimination in this country. Racism persists, sexism persists, anti-Semitism persists, but at least Jews, women, and people of color enjoy the special protections of the federal government. Sexual orientation, which is innate, is not covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; religion, which is volitive, does. While 12 states now allow gay marriage, the federal government does not. The message from Washington is clear: gays and lesbians matter less than straight people.
While our entertainment has improved dramatically in recent years in this regard, homophobia is hard to ignore, if you watch, say, a comedy made before 2000. Oh, the jokes about limp wrists. Oh, the hilarity. It’s pervasive in our culture. It cannot be avoided.
Even our curse words are inherently homophobic. If we say Michele Bachmann sucks, a now-ubiquitous term of disdain used by little kids everywhere, what we’re implying is that she sucks cock—the verb suck requires a direct (and erect) object. But we don’t even mean that she sucks cock, in the sense of a wife performing fellatio upon her grateful husband, or even a hooker upon a john. Rather, we are equating something we don’t like—Bachmann, in this example—with man-on-man oral sex.
In colloquial American English, nothing but nothing is as terrible as gay blowjobs.
What angers me especially about the anti-gay agenda is how its proponents shackle homophobia to religion. Even if Jesus was not gay (and the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing that he was), the entire point of Christianity, as I was taught it in CCD, is to be kind to people, especially to those most in need. Gay kids have the Bible and the federal government and the culture and the very language working against them. Is any group of people in our society more in need of our collective kindness and compassion and protection?
Josh Pacheco, a gay teenager from Michigan, took his life last November because he could no longer stand the persistent bullying. Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to make life easier for the Josh Pachecos of the world? Isn’t that what Jesus would do? How is the existence of Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress who uses her bully pulpit to insist that a kid like Josh Pacheco is a freak who suffers from sexual identity disorder…how is that Christian?
Pacheco’s suicide is not, alas, an anomaly. Lesbians are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. Gay males are six times more likely to attempt suicide than hetero males. Six times! The majority of these attempts occur before age 20.
This is not a function of gays and lesbians being more prone to depression; the word gay means happy, for Pete sake. This is societal. This is something our organized religions, our culture, and our government have done to our most vulnerable children.
Pray away the gay? Gay teens don’t need our prayers, Michele. They need our protection. They need to know that it will get better.
Despite her odious statements, Bachmann claims she has compassion towards gays and lesbians. “Don’t misunderstand,” she said at the EdWatch conference. “I am not here bashing people who are homosexuals, who are lesbians, who are bisexual, who are transgender. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life [sic] and sexual identity disorders.”
What if she chose to discriminate against race instead of sexual orientation? Imagine if she had stood up at the same conference and said, “I am not here bashing people who are Negroes, who are mulattoes, who are octoroons. We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of miscegenation in their life and racial inferiority disorders.” Imagine the outcry.
This is no different. Not at all. Anyone outraged at one should be just as outraged at the other. Bachmann endorses discrimination based on qualities we are born with, and that is evil, plain and simple.
It was fashionable to make fun of Michele Bachmann this past week, to wring one last joke out of her before her departure. She is a big, crazy-eyed fish in a very small barrel, and the John Stewarts and Stephen Colberts took their best shots. I considered writing a humorous post about her myself (“God Responds To Bachmann’s Announcement” was my working title), but I decided against it.
She’s so easy to make fun of, and such an obvious clown, that we on the left don’t take her seriously. Bachmann tweaks our sense of comic irony. And therein lies the problem. The fact that we had to listen to her attempt to articulate her hateful worldview during the presidential campaign, the fact that the media was forced to dignify her positions by reporting on them without qualification, the fact that I even know who she is…this is all dangerous, more dangerous than two dudes getting married or even the Islamic jihad she’s so afraid of. I mean, there was a chance—not a good one, but a legitimate one—of this nattering nebob of nutjobbery winning the White House. (When the United States collapses, as all empires must, it will be because we elect a retrograde dipshit like Michele Bachmann as president. That, and not holy war or terrorism or global warming or anything else, is what will get us.)
And this isn’t about Republican vs. Democrat, either. Neither party has all the answers, and our country works best when there is thoughtful discourse from both sides of the aisle. But when it comes to gay rights, there is no compromise. Plenty of Republicans support gay marriage. Dick Fucking Cheney supports it!
The gay rights movement is the great civil rights movement of our time. To oppose gay marriage is no different than opposing interracial marriage, or women’s suffrage, or abolition.
We can’t discuss Michele Bachmann’s relationship with the gay rights movement without mentioning her husband. Marcus Bachmann runs a clinic that practices “reparation therapy,” a pseudo-science that is alleged to “cure” homosexuality. Because of this odd career choice—and because he flamboyantly exhibits most of the stereotypes associated with closeted homosexuals; it would surprise no one if he had a poster of Cher hanging over his bed—it is a widely held assumption that Marcus Bachmann is himself gay.
A therapist could have a field day with this. Maybe Michele Bachmann doesn’t hate all gay people. Maybe she only hates her husband, and herself. I would feel pity for this poor, ignorant woman, if she were not in a position of authority, if she were not a viable and effective agent of hatred. (She’s also an affront to the women’s rights movement, but that’s worthy of its own essay).
In coming out, every openly gay man or woman performs an act of bravery that ranks, in my view, with any adulthood initiation rite anthropologists have yet discovered. By bashing gays (which is what she’s doing, whether she cares to admit it or not), Michele Bachmann has instead chosen a path of extreme cowardice. She is helping to perpetuate a society that abets the suicides of gay kids like Josh Pacheco.
Homosexuality is not an abomination. Bachmann’s condemnation of it is.
When Jason West married those 25 couples on February 27, 2004, he was knowingly violating state law. The district attorney of Ulster County charged him with 19 misdemeanors. The legal battle went on for years, and the possibility that he would go to jail was in play.
Fast-forward to 2011. New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, legalizing same-sex marriage. In seven years, a veritable eye-blink, we went from West being arraigned to full legalization. That’s an enormous amount of progress in an insanely short period of time. When the waves of change crash so suddenly, some flotsam is bound to turn up in the wake.
Bachmann is such flotsam. Let us hope, like most things washed out to sea, she drifts away, never to be seen again.