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Michele Bachmann Says Queer Things About Queer People

August 17, 2011

Illustration by Kate Holterhoff

For the remaining two people worldwide who are still unaware of Michele Bachmann’s views on gay people and same-sex marriage, here’s a primer: gay men and lesbians are trapped in “personal bondage” to Satanic lifestyles because they were all sexually abused as children. Hearing things like this, my gay friends (and gay self) worry that Bachman will seek to eliminate the gay menace and, in so doing, permanently end the career of Kathy Griffin. However, I think Bachmann’s recent, more cautious rhetoric tells a different story.

Bachmann, Republican presidential hopeful and recent winner of the Ames Straw Poll, has a history of saying provocative things about gay people. But this past Sunday she claimed not to judge gays and lesbians, arguing that she “ascribe[s] honor and dignity to every person, no matter what their background.” Watch for yourself:

The part I’m especially interested in comes right after the interviewer, David Gregory, plays recordings of Bachmann’s previous, overwhelmingly negative statements about gay people. Here’s a transcript:

Gregory: … do you think anybody hears [your previous statements about gay people] and thinks that you haven’t made a judgment about gays and lesbians?
Bachmann: That’s all I can tell you is that I’m not judging.
Gregory: So your words should stand for themselves?
Bachmann: I’m running for the presidency of the United States, that’s what’s important.

Why would Bachmann, someone who is normally unabashed about her views on LGBT people, dodge a question about those views? Her opinion doesn’t seem to have changed, but Bachmann seems reluctant to discuss gay Americans in relation to her presidential aspirations. Her claim to be running for president, and not judge, sounds like a classic love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin move. It’s the same kind of lame middle ground that people seek out whenever they claim to love gay people in the same way that they love alcoholics, kleptomaniacs, etc.

I doubt Bachmann’s response was meant to (or possibly could) sway anyone who is personally invested in gay rights. It’s more likely that Bachmann is trying to seem more moderate. It could be as simple as audience awareness: Bachmann knows the interview will reach a national audience, whose opinions regarding homosexuality are likely to be diverse.

Bachmann clearly wants to dissociate her views on homosexuality from her presidential campaign. She has never hesitated to politicize same-sex marriage, and I’m sure she’ll continue to make it an issue in her presidential campaign. Nevertheless, I am oddly reassured by Bachmann’s unwillingness to discuss her personal views on homosexuality on Meet the Press. It shows that while opposition to same-sex marriage is still a politically viable position, open disgust for gay and lesbian people is becoming… less so.

Of course, politicians are quite capable to saying nice things about LGBT people in public while still undermining their efforts to secure political, legal and social legitimacy at every opportunity. Political correctness and legal enfranchisement are not the same thing, but neither are they totally separate.

If you want to know more:

  • The conventional wisdom on the 2012 presidential election is that it’s going to be all about jobs, the economy and the deficit. But, like much of America, I find these issues tedious and would rather talk about gay people instead. In all seriousness, we’ll continue to discuss the public rhetoric surrounding our economic situation. But, over the course of the next year or so, we’ll also be presenting a series of entries covering same-sex marriage and the 2012 election.
  • Norman Fairclough in particular has warned about the dangers of seeking to create social change through linguistic change alone. Check out his article “’Political Correctness’: The Politics of Culture and Language.” In it, he explains that disdain for “political correctness” is in part a reaction to and critique of efforts to make people more “sensitive” to disenfranchised groups in their language choices.
  • This article was about Michele Bachmann’s stance on gay marriage. All of the other declared Republican candidates have also weighed in at one time or another, including Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Oh, and here’s Obama’s “evolving” views for good measure.
  • A final thought: I love hearing about Michele Bachmann’s views on sexual orientation. I wish she would write a book about it, so that I could buy it on tape and listen to it in my car on the way to work. It would significantly brighten my day. But then, I’m gay. And a rhetorician. And weird about that sort of thing. Which raises an important question for everyone else: Why have gay people become a hot topic in an election that is supposed to be all about the economy and job creation? More importantly, is this a good thing? I’d be interested to hear what our readers think.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Will permalink
    August 17, 2011 10:24 am

    Wow, I think there’s a lot going on here. Great post, Doug. Gregory caught my attention with the way he phrased his opening question: “That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?” It throws Bachmann off, because it makes disapproval of gay lifestyles a question of being sufficiently Presidential or not. A straight answer (no pun intended) to Gregory’s closed question is either, Yes, as President I would advocate the same views as I have been, or, No, as President I would tone it down. For a Christian like Bachmann who tries to integrate her beliefs with her actions in every sphere, I think the option of dissociating (and thus sterilizing, from her perspective) her beliefs from her political pursuits has never seemed viable, but really, I think that’s a rhetorical possibility Gregory opens up for her that we see her considering for the first time in this interview–hence her sudden reticence to talk about gay marrige and dogged return to “I’m running for the President of the United States.” As the election season continues, I could see her rhetorically offer her desire for a Presidentially-led Constitutional amendment in exchange for authorized private gay-hating.

    Oh, and I’m with you. I think it’s more fun debating things we feel like we can control than arguing over lousy policy for intractable issues like the economy and jobs.

    • Doug Cloud permalink*
      August 17, 2011 11:36 am

      Will: Great point about Gregory’s prompt. I agree, I think he creates a nice tension between candidacy and presidency. Lots of commentators have been saying the same thing about candidates’ positions on the debt ceiling, namely that although it’s easy and politically viable for candidates to oppose lifting it, no sitting president could ever, ever oppose doing so.

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