Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Wednesday announcement that she is ending her White House bid comes as no surprise. While the Minnesota congresswoman was one of the first GOP candidates to experience a surge in the polls last summer as the party’s base searched frantically for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney (she even won the Iowa straw poll in August), her campaign had been dogged by a series of high-profile missteps.
They included: suggesting that cervical cancer vaccines cause “mental retardation,” pledging to close the non-existent American embassy in Tehran, reassigning the location of the “shot heard ‘round the world” to New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts, and confusing movie star John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The withering heat of the presidential vetting process also yielded an embarrassing and disturbing revelation about Bachmann: The “Christian counseling” clinic that she co-owns with her husband, Marcus, offers so-called “ex-gay therapy” that purports to turn clients from gay to straight.
The Bachmanns had long denied that their clinic endorsed this form of “therapy,” which has no basis in research, inflicts substantial harm to patients who are falsely told they can “pray away the gay,” and is denounced by every mainstream professional medical and mental health organization. However, working for the LGBT rights group Truth Wins Out and at the behest of founder Wayne Besen, I conducted an undercover, hidden-camera investigation last summer that provided incontrovertible proof of reparative therapy taking place at Bachmann & Associates.
TWO’s investigation disrupted the momentum of Rep. Bachmann’s campaign, highlighting the congresswoman’s virulently anti-LGBT views and the extent to which those views are out of step with those of most Americans. It helped to define the public perception of Michele and Marcus Bachmann as religious extremists, drew attention to her long legislative record of anti-LGBT bigotry, and made it more difficult for her to recast herself as a mainstream presidential candidate.
Equally important, it cast a glaring spotlight on ex-gay therapy and helped reinvigorate the ongoing national conversation around this issue.
However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking that today’s announcement will mean we’ve heard the last from Michele Bachmann. She will return to Congress, where she will undoubtedly remain a forceful opponent of any and all efforts to advance LGBT equality. Bowing out of the presidential race allows Bachmann to focus her time and effort on her upcoming congressional re-election campaign in Minnesota, where it’s probable that she’ll lend her now-amplified voice to the effort to pass a proposed constitutional amendment banning any recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions in that state. And Rep. Bachmann will most likely intensify her homophobia now that she no longer has to concern herself with attempting to appear presidential.
Finally, let’s not forget that the field of remaining presidential candidates is littered with homophobes, including a now-surging Rick Santorum, who most recently stated that his administration would attempt to forcibly divorce legally married same-sex couples.
So while the end of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign is undoubtedly a positive development for America’s LGBT community, it’s definitely not cause for complacency. To the contrary, our efforts to protect and expand upon the victories we’ve achieved must intensify, because in this election year, our opponents are just getting started.