Bachmann campaign plagued by gay rights questions

Rep. Michele Bachmann. Photo: Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald Rep. Michele Bachmann. Photo: Jeff Storjohann, Carroll Daily Times Herald

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s weekend trip to the Golden State to gather support and funds for her presidential bid drew protests and sharp questions from Tonight Show host Jay Leno over her stances and statements on rights for LGBT people.

At a campaign rally in Costa Mesa, Bachmann was asked by a rally-attendee what she plans to do about bullying in her district. The Anoka-Hennepin School District is largely within the district represented by Bachmann and has seen many high-profile events surrounding the bullying of LGBT students. Six of those students are suing the district.

“That’s not a federal issue,” she said, dodging the question.

Two days earlier, Tammy Aaberg, a mother in the district who lost her son to suicide in 2010, presented Bachmann’s district office with a petition signed by more than 100,000 people asking her to take a stand on bullying in schools. Her office said Bachmann might eventually respond to the petition.

Bachmann has spoken about bullying in school before. At a Minnesota Senate committee hearing on bullying in 2005, Bachmann said, “I think for all us our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies, always have been, always will be. I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get to point of zero tolerance and what does it mean?”

“One question would be what would be our definition of bullying? Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be, will we be expecting boys to be girls?” Bachmann asked. ”I just don’t know how we can realistically expect a zero tolerance of bullying behavior.”

Bachmann was in town to speak at the California Republican Convention in Los Angeles and found herself the target of a flash mob. About 100 people protested her stances on LGBT issues to the tune of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”

Then it was Bachmann’s time for an appearance on Jay Leno, where she would once again be questioned on her LGBT record.

Leno asked her, “That whole ‘pray the gay away’ thing, I don’t get that.”

Bachmann tried to deflect with a joke: “When I heard that I thought it was a mid-life crisis thing, ‘pray the gray away.’”

Leno pressed her, “To me, when I was a kid, they used to try and teach me to write right-handed … to me that’s the same thing if you’re gay. I’ve been married 31 years, first wife, very happy. Two gay guys get married, how does that affect my marriage?”

Bachmann responded: “The whole thing is, with clinics, whatever issue anyone has, we don’t discriminate, we don’t discriminate with people’s issues.”

Leno wanted to know why the gay thing was even an issue, and Bachmann responded, “The family is foundational and marriage between a man and a woman is what the law has been for years.”

Bachmann returns to Iowa this week for a series of three employee roundtable events. The first will be held at noon Monday in Sheffield at Sukup Manufacturing, followed by a 3 p.m. meeting at OMJC Signals in Waterloo. On Tuesday, the Congresswoman will be in Des Moines at 9 a.m. to meet with employees at Amend Packing Co.