Michele Bachmann is the Bellatrix Lestrange of the GOP Presidential Candidates

In many ways, we have reached the home stretch of the gay equality movement. We have won the most crucial battle – hearts and minds. In the same way that police brutality toward 1960s civil rights protesters revealed the human cost of racism, last fall’s “epidemic” of gay teen suicides forced today’s public to realize that homophobia has similarly tragic consequences. (Epidemic in quotes because I’m still unconvinced that this was an uptick in bullying/suicides as opposed to an uptick of reporting on it, but that’s a story for another time.) As a result, explicit homophobia has become considerably less socially acceptable, with even those opposing equality stopping short of it, scrambling to explain their cause through other means. And yet, no one would know this by looking at the current roster of Republican candidates, the majority of whom not only oppose equal marriage, but disapprove of homosexuality altogether. And no one is fiercer about this than Michele Bachmann.

Unlike perhaps some of her opponents, Bachmann is not just anti-gay to win votes. Homophobia has always been her bread and butter, a key plank on her platform since day one. She not only believes homosexuality can be cured, but that it should, describing it as “a very sad life…[a] part of Satan.” It is part of why she is so wildly popular among the evangelical Christian and, yes, frequently homophobic conservative-Republican base, a group feeling increasingly shut-out by a world that is growing less and less tolerant of their intolerance. In her recent article on Bachmann for The Daily Beast , Michelle Goldberg interviews Frank Schaeffer, son of famous fundamentalist preacher Francis Schaeffer, who sums Bachmann’s appeal up perfectly: “[She] says certain things which sound crazy to the general public. But to anybody raised in the environment of the evangelical right wing, what she says makes perfect sense.” While under increasing pressure to moderate her anti-gay views for a national stage (hence her recent comments about marriage equality in New York), Bachmann still makes sure her supporters know where she really stands. Goldberg mentions one recent Bachmann “dog whistle” – “We are the head and not the tail” – a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 28:13 used by some fundamentalists to explain why Christians should control the government.

As to how Bachmann came to these beliefs, her story is like that of any other evangelical leader from her generation. Growing up in Iowa and Minnesota, she was born into a family of working-class, Democratic-voting Lutherans, the sort familiar to any of us who regularly listen to Prairie Home Companion. Bachmann, then Michele Amble, was a cheerleader and overachiever with divorced parents; in high school this caused her to turn to Jesus, being “born again” at age 16. This was the mid-70s, when the evangelical revival was just getting started, and not yet politicized. As a student at Winona State University, she met her husband, Marcus Bachmann (more on him in a moment), through the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. They campaigned for Jimmy Carter in ’76 but, like the movement itself, took a sharp right turn before the end of the decade. Michele then attended law school at Oral Roberts University and later studied tax law at William and Mary, while her husband enrolled at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, where he studied “psychology and counseling.”

via the atlantic

Marcus’s psychology and counseling background has recently garnered the Bachmanns considerable media attention. He runs a Christian mental health clinic which offers ex-gay therapy. He has given presentations with titles like “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda” on the gay conversion therapies his clinic offers. While claiming in one such presentation that he doesn’t mind if his patients stay gay, this is seemingly contradicted by his comments that gay people are “barbarians” who “need to be educated, [t]hey need to be disciplined.” You can watch the whole video here at Queerty, but here are a few more choice quotes:

“Just because someone thinks or feels it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps…”

What’s particularly frightening about this is that, if you scratch the bit about “sinful nature,” it sounds like perfectly reasonable, commonplace advice for protecting kids from real dangers, like drugs or alcohol. And yet, he is applying this to people of the same sex falling in love and forming relationships. What does that tell us?

The unearthing of these facts about Marcus Bachmann led some LGBT bloggers to label Marcus as an “ex-gay” himself, though these claims lack any shred of evidence. Suffice it to say, the Bachmanns are perhaps one of the best examples out there that not all anti-gay bigots are closet cases. Some are just bigots.

via associated press

The fact that Michele and her husband are true believers to the core is exemplified by their other socially conservative positions. The Bachmanns were early members of the anti-abortion movement. Yesterday, Michele Bachmann was reported as the first 2012 presidential candidate to sign a pledge by conservative Iowa group FAMiLY Leader, which has received lots of press for seeming to suggest a ban on pornography, in addition to the usual anti-gay and anti-choice positions. And a choice quote: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly, a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.” You can read the entire pledge here (amusingly titled “The Marriage Vow”) and judge for yourself.

Goldberg suggests that understanding “belief” is essential to understanding Bachmann, and therefore her specific religious beliefs are worth examining. Bachmann belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), one of the three major Lutheran denominations in the United States and by far the most conservative. It is explicitly anti-gay, anti-choice and creationist. What’s more, WELS does not ordain women – or allow them in any leadership positions in the church. Even the also-fairly-conservative Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) allows women some smaller leadership roles, but the Biblical literalism of WELS prescribes that women should have no role where they have power over men. And though it seems it should be otherwise, Bachmann supports that position and considers herself perfectly aligned with it. The Washington Post reports Bachmann as admitting she studied tax law because of her husband’s instruction, and she advises, “Be submissive, wives. You are to be submissive to your husbands.”

Her beliefs are so strong that she is willing to put them ahead of the people in her life – including her own older stepsister, Helen LaFave, who is a lesbian. Another stepsister, Linda Cielinki, describes the betrayal Helen felt over Bachmann’s anti-gay stance in Goldberg’s article. “They lived together as teenage girls. They were very close at that time.” So for both LaFave and Cielinki, Bachmann’s staunch anti-gay stance was “a hit to the gut.” Bachmann has even specifically called out LaFave; in her earlier-quoted speech describing homosexuality as sad and Satanic, she said “Any of you have members of your family in the lifestyle, we have a member of our family that is.”

One important thing to remember with Bachmann, of course, is that she is not Sarah Palin; Bachmann is serious. She is the Bellatrix Lestrange of the Republican contenders; her beliefs are frightening, her devotion is fanatical, and as her treatment of her stepsister shows, Bachmann doesn’t care who she hurts on the road to her goals. But also, she knows perfectly well what she is doing. Bachmann will likely never be the subject of a hypocritical sex scandal; her blind faith in her ideals runs down to her core. This is why she is so popular with fundamentalist Christian Republicans — but also why she is so dangerous for everyone else. We underestimate Bachmann at our own peril.

UPDATE 7/9/11: Rick Santorum has joined Bachmann in signing the Iowa FAMiLY Leader’s pledge.  Also, more information is surfacing about the organization behind the pledge.

UPDATE 7/11/11: Some new information about Marcus Bachmann’s clinic and their ex-gay activities has surfaced thanks to an investigation by Truth Wins Out. You can read more about it here at The Advocate and also at The Nation.


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

Rose

Rose is a 25-year-old Detroit native currently living in Austin, TX, where she is working on her Ph.D. in musicology. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network.

Rose has written 1 article for us.

89 Comments

  1. if she want’s to play the name calling game, fine, i can deal but wanting to get rid of all porn?!?!?!?!? Do not mess with my beloved reading time http://vimeo.com/23156368, you have crossed the line Bachmann!!!

    Maybe she’s just tired of being a pillow queen and takes it out on the rest of us. After that whole “lesbians are holding me hostage in the bathroom” fiasco, I can not honestly think that she isn’t a closet case.

    • i think all of them romney, palin, bachmann, paaawlenty, and newt (is he still in?) are making john huntsman and herman cain look better and better.

      if only huntsman would regroup his campain and come out with ads that made sense and easy to find websites, he would be the most buyable republican candidate

  2. She doesn’t just hate the queer community! Bachmann is an equal opportunity bigot. The pledge she signed also included this gem:

    “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

    ugh she is so awful

  3. honestly, she’s not even close in the polls so…….don’t worry about her ever coming close to the presidency. if anything obama needs a progressive challenger and i don’t think that’s going to happen so he’s got this one.

    plus everyone is already figuring out that this job and debt crisis is a direct consequence of the republican business agenda. the gop is falling down the rabbit hole fast.

    • The tricky thing with following the polls this early is, well, sometimes they aren’t accurate portrayals of who will get the nomination and who will not. Trying to find the Daily Show (or was it Colbert Report?) from a handful of weeks ago + the article I found… anyways, showed some presidents who weren’t polled to be the favorites for their party 12-16 months prior to the election and ended up winning. Blah. Must. Go. To. Home. Computer. (Plus, polls are sketchy for research purposes anyways).

      • Yeah let’s not forget that based on polling, everyone thought ’08 was going to be a Clinton vs. Giuliani race. Until the actual primaries started and proved everyone wrong.

        I feel like the current range of GOP candidates looks a lot like the one in ’08, in that they really exemplify the divides in the party. So I think someone like Pawlenty who has a toe in each corner will end up winning the nomination, much like McCain did in ’08. However, I don’t think we should count Bachmann out this early; she is extremely popular with the evangelical Christian base and she is good at switching to libertarian, Tea-Party language to please the more secular, business-minded types.

      • i mean just polls from the gop. they show that their voters are not happy about the candidates this year. so regardless of who wins it’s still going to be a tough race for them……..i donno i just can not see a republican winning this year with all the recalls/union strickes/etc. i just don’t see it

        i really do want a progressive to step in and join the race though and see some real competition this election year. the gop butters up the numbers, so although it may seem like they have this hugemungus group of supporters it’s really only a fistful, it’s their strategy. i honestly don’t see the number of supporters they claim to have at all. yeah but savvy only goes so far. you really have to be prepared for the job not just talk the talk ya know

  4. Full disclosure on the Lutheran stuff in there – I was raised Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) before my parents’ divorce, even attending an LCMS school for kindergarten through second grade.

    And both LCMS and WELS are really far to the right and bare little resemblance to the mainline Lutheran church, which in the U.S. is called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American (ELCA) and is the largest in the country. ELCA ordains women, is not officially anti-gay (though some individual congregations are), etc. Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor who was killed two years ago, was an ELCA Lutheran. So don’t go judging any Lutheran friends based on this info until you figure out which one they are, k?

  5. i will never understand the big deal about homosexuality.

    it’s not in the ten commandments like adultery and stealing.
    jesus never says jack sh*t about homos.

    like aren’t there better things for people to focus all their energies on? like save some starving kids, build someone a house, put an end to domestic violence, start an AA or Al- anon group, like c’mon.

    i’m so over people like her not having anything better to offer this world than more hate.

    this evangelical movement needs to refocus but then again, since hating gays makes you rich and famous in this country (Maggie Gallagher, Pat Robertson, the 700 club, Newt Gingrich, Anne Coulter, all the usual suspects) why not?

    it’s an easy way to make buckets and assloads of cash n get your face on the television and make your friends rich and put their laws into effect etc.

    grumble grumble

  6. Also everybody READ THE DAILY BEAST ARTICLE AND THE ROLLING STONE ARTICLE I LINKED.

    There’s a lot of info in there about the extreme nuttiness of Michele’s “education” at Oral Roberts and Marcus’s at Regent that you really should know, that I couldn’t fit in my article. So go forth and read those and learn it all!

  7. Marcus going to Pat Robertson’s “school” explains so much.

    Thanks for this article. I never had the stamina to investigate her background, so I greatly appreciate you writing this so well and without having your head explode.

    I’m going to read those links now.

    • I used that link in the article, but thanks for posting it anyway! I want more people to read the whole thing. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t include but which is still very good to know.

  8. If Bachmann wins, I’m building a bomb shelter and my family’s living there for the next four years. I can’t trust her not to say something idiotic to, say, North Korea and drag us all into World War Three.

  9. I read both of those recommended articles, Rose. Motherfuuuuuuuuuuuuuucker this woman is scarier than I thought possible.

    (Although I had to laugh at her paranoia surrounding IB. Looks like she has yet another reason to hate my existence! Yee-ay!)

    • I know, right? It’s really funny to me because all but two of the teachers in my high school’s history department were ultra-conservative. Like, IB is hardly liberal brainwashing. Of course, for someone like Bachmann, it is because it isn’t conservative-brainwashing.

      • Both of the English teachers in my IB program were gaymos – The other teacher was a lesbian who was struggling with depression but was a very bubbly and sweet person; I had the gay man who had a severe reputation for being strict and tough (he was), but everything we read involved Christianity or incest or BOTH.

        I miss his class…

  10. Michele Bachmann is a crazy bitch. The thing that I enjoy about the “Marriage Pledge-thingie” is that a restriction on porn is essentially in direct confrontation with the First Amendment freedom of speech. It’s been ruled on previously that it is a form of expression and freedom of speech –Ginsberg v. New York, Miller v. California and New York v. Ferber especially. Obviously there are provisions in these cases, but a ban on all porn is, according to the Supreme Court, unconstitutional.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY–MINNEAPOLIS WAS VOTED THE MOST GAY CITY BY THE ADVOCATE, SO TAKE THAT, BACHMANN

  11. I’m a Minnesotan, so I’ve been watching Bachmann toot her little crazy train all over the place for the past several years. Her views on homos aren’t the half of it.

    When Obama took office, she made a lot of noise about how he’s going to start labor camps that will turn all of our children into America-hating communists. She once said she doesn’t think there’s evidence that carbon dioxide is harmful. She doesn’t believe in fiat money. ALSO, she thinks that getting rid of minimum wage would solve all of our unemployment problems.

    Bachmann is not savvy. She has savvy people telling her what to do. She’s managed her craziness comparatively well since she started talking about campaigning, but she was unmistakably crazy 100% of the time before all this terrifying talk about presidency.

    • That makes sense. It’s just that lately she’s seemed very skilled at convincing people she is more moderate than she is. I remember there was even a commenter here recently saying “Look at her comments about New York marriage equality! See, she’s just like Obama – just leave it to the states!” And I had to drop a bunch of links to stuff she’s said previously to prove that, no, she’s not just like Obama.

      Also, the thing about her crazypants beliefs is that none of them are too crazy to not find someone in the Republican base who agrees with her – which is why, as the RS article points out, her popularity increases with every nutty thing she says/does that us reasonable people laugh at.

      • Oh yeah, she’s doing a remarkable job at presenting herself like a reasonable human being. But like Steph mentioned below, the bigger she gets, the more her crazy past (very recent past, to boot) will be made public.

        But that she can build any sort of platform at all, even through fancy deceptive statements, is absolutely terrifying. There’s no question that she’s batshit crazy, but I really don’t have a grasp on what the majority voting power understands to be crazy, apparently.

    • For serious. The lady is batshit. Never mind her self-announced “calling from God”. This article and links only serve to further convince me just how delusional Bachman really is.

      Thankfully, these savvy people have only taken over as of late, so she has years and years of fanatical, absurd statements on the record. She may be trying to temper her image now, but she’s several years too late to play catch-up. If by some miracle she did win the nomination, she would be lambasted by the media. (Or, rather, any legitimate legitimate media sources.)

  12. I’m sorry you feel that way. What about religion makes it wrong to call people idiots? If someone does something stupid, it generally makes them an idiot… and for the most part, people are okay with labeling idiots as idiots, but when it comes to religion, even people who don’t believe in religion defend them as not idiots.

    I want you to look at:

    http://www.project-reason.org/bibleContra_big.pdf

    and then explain to me how someone who bases their whole life around the bible is not an idiot, but someone who sticks their hand into a running lawnmower is.

    So I guess your comment about friendship means that your friends have to be either politically correct, or willing to pander to the sensitive feelings of those who believe in organized religion.

    In which case, I also suspect that we wouldn’t be friends, because when I see bullshit, I call it. No ostrich approach for me.

    • In addition to what lovesickdiva says below, I think it would benefit you to look into what liberal religious people actually believe (it’s not what you think) rather than just into atheist arguments against straw versions of them.

      And nothing in Dina’s comment indicated that she needs her friends to be P.C. or whatever. I don’t know where you are getting that from, but I think you should check this out: http://teenskepchick.org/2011/03/28/logic-me-this-the-straw-man/

    • You know what’s laughably intolerant about your comment? That you refer to “religious” people and you really just mean conservative Christians. Which is hilarious, because that is the same narrow worldview that comes from conservative Christians…when they say religious they mean Christian and it sounds like you do to. The King James Bible does not equal religion. Maybe you need to read more books?

      Normally I don’t feed the trolls, but there is something so dumb about asking “why is it wrong to call religious people stupid?” Well, it’s not “wrong” per se, but it is rude, dismissive, and leaves the rest of us incapable of viewing you as anything but someone looking to start a namecalling argument. Have fun with that.

    • That’s because you’re not a crazy who also happens to be Lutheran. I go to school in a small town full of crazies who are also Lutheran who perform Bachmann-level crazies on the reg. They protested at so many of our GLBT meetings on campus that we had to move our meeting place to a closed venue, with security.

      But we also have sane, lovely Lutherans, so we don’t hate the Lutherans, just the crazies.

    • She’s from a particular Midwestern-American offshoot of Lutheranism. It’s not the Lutheran church you’re probably familiar with as someone from Iceland.

      As I said in a comment above, I was raised LCMS, another ultra-conservative Lutheran offshot which is similar to WELS, and yeah, it has little to nothing in common with the mainline Lutheran church.

  13. It’s quite simple. Not everyone who’s a part of an organized religion bases their whole life around its text. In fact, I’d say a majority don’t. Not to mention certain churches have been instrumental in social change for certain groups in the United States. Martin Luther King was a reverend and a religious man. Was he an idiot?

  14. My best friend’s parents (mom and stepdad) were evangelical Lutherans (her mom freakishly looks like a thinner version of Bachmann).
    They kicked her out our senior year of high school in Minnesota. She was a virgin, went to church, didn’t drink, didn’t go out, and she isn’t gay. They kicked her out because they found a bikini in her closet and it was inappropriate.
    They kicked her sister out a year earlier for dying her hair dark brown from light brown.
    My parents are Muslim and I am not out to them, but deep down, I know that even if they knew, they would never cut me out of their lives like my best friend’s parents.
    These people are scary and the polar opposite of anything I stand for. :<

  15. So, I read the marriage contract…I think it’s racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Bachmann is scary, like Hitler-in-the-late-1920s-scary. I think it’s amazing that she is both a “Christian” and a “family values” candidate when she cast out her own stepsister because she loves other women.

    I’m googling “political asylum in Canada” in another window as we speak…

    However, I would appreciate it if politicians would stop having affairs (specifically when their spouses are dying of cancer or pregnant), and start caring about their own families a bit more. (For example, Bachmann turning her back on her sibling, or Sarah Palin’s absentee parenting to her younger daughter, who has posted racist and homophobic comments on Facebook, and her older daughter who was date raped (according to her autobiography) and didn’t even comprehend that fact.))

    I would love a true “family values” candidate–they would support the building of all families, no matter what they looked like, and ensure their own house was in order (literally) before telling the American public what they should be doing in their own lives.

    • You summed up my sentiments perfectly. It’s tough being a Christian who thinks other Christians like Bachmann are crazypants and don’t belong in our political system at all. Her ideals are terrifying, and I’m appalled when people support crap like this.

      Also, I had to laugh at the title. Bachman IS Bellatrix.

  16. Ok has anyone else read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood? THIS LADY IS A CHARACTER FROM THAT NOVEL. I swear it, she’s the wife. This is creepy. Watch out America, Gilead may be closer than you think.

    • Yeah, from what I understand Serena Joy was supposed to represent Phyllis Schlafy, but she could easily stand-in for a whole slew of conservative political women who have followed in Schlafy’s footsteps, especially Bachmann and Palin.

    • But also, Umbridge wasn’t as much of a true believer as Bellatrix was. She really just went along with whatever the Ministry said, and what could get her power. Umbridge was really more of a pragmatist, if a particularly ugly one. But it’s clear that Bachmann really believes what she says, that she’s not one for compromise and she’s going to ride this wave as far as it will take her. That’s why she’s more Bellatrix to me.

  17. Bachmann is batshit crazy. If she gets elected, our country will look like a Christian version of Iran! Everybody, gay or straight, needs to oppose this wretched woman at evey turn and expose her before it’s too late!

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!