There's No Reason Libertarians and Gay Conservatives Can't Support Michele Bachmann
Whenever conservative candidates demonstrate their electoral viability, sensationalistic denunciations of said conservatives as beyond the pale are sure to follow. Last weekend, Michael Smerconish declared that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has "lost a young conservative" named Ben Haney by signing the Iowa Family Leader's Marriage Vow, which suggests homosexuality is a choice. And that's not all:
In 2004, at the National Education Leadership Conference, you said of the gay lifestyle: "It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It's anything but gay."
Then there's your husband, Marcus, who obtained his Ph.D. by virtue of a correspondence course. He runs a mental-health clinic but, according to Politico, is not registered with any of the three state boards that certify mental health practitioners. (Minnesota is one of the few states in which you can practice mental health without a license.) Last year, when asked during a radio interview about parenting homosexual children, he said:
"We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks 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 and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps. . ."
Marcus Bachmann has denied that his clinic engages in attempts to "pray away the gay," but ABC's Nightline recently aired an interview with a man who said that, at age 17, he sought help from Bachmann & Associates and, [a] "path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay."
First, some fact checking: According to the Minneapolis StarTribune, both Marcus Bachmann and interviewer Penna Dexter say the "barbarian" quote referred to children, not gays: "We believe that children are born with a nature that inclines them to challenge and break rules, and that it is thus the parents' responsibility to guide their children along good and productive paths." Further, Dr. Bachmann hasn't denied that he advises gays to pray for sexual conversions; he simply clarifies that it's "not a special interest of the business and would only be attempted at the client's request." However foolish or distasteful gays find such services, let's keep in mind that they don't affect anyone who doesn't choose to utilize them.
As for the "is homosexuality a choice?" debate, I've mostly ignored it since it's irrelevant to public policy -- gay Americans would still deserve equal protection of their natural and political rights even if homosexuality were 100% optional, and there would still be powerful reasons to resist the redefinition of marriage even if everyone agreed that sexual orientation was set in stone from conception onward. That said, I suspect homosexuality is substantially predetermined because, as Haney says, "If you could simply choose who you were sexually attracted to, wouldn't you choose the path of least resistance?"
So is this a big deal for Bachmann? On the one hand, in trying to court Iowan values voters, she probably didn't bother to consider the pledge's dubious aspects before signing it. A presidential candidate's carelessness is certainly fair game. And politicians should have the common sense to know talking about gays in the same breath as the devil is just asking for trouble.
On the other hand, it's not exactly shocking that politicians pander. And while her 2004 remarks are bluntly unflattering toward homosexuality, they're hardly theocratic or dehumanizing. Smerconish and Haney don't mention the parts where Bachmann calls on Christians to have "profound compassion" for gay people and "reach our hand out in love" to them. Sure, Bachmann's personal view of homosexuality is that it's sinful, but politically she merely opposes "legal enforcement" of the gay agenda -- in other words, the state telling people of faith that they're Nazis or Neanderthals for their moral beliefs, indoctrinating their children against their values, and redefining one of society's oldest, most vital institutions.
Why should that be a deal-breaker for any conservative, much less one who "drove three hours to the nation's capital to stand in line and pay his respects to President Ronald Reagan as the Gipper lay in state," even though the Gipper agreed with Bachmann on homosexuality?
I'm reminded of the GOP's last presidential primary, in which social conservatives were told to hold their noses and accept Rudy Giuliani, even though his pro-abortion views were almost as extreme as Barack Obama's. We're still lectured about the need for "truces" on our most deeply held views. I don't expect the Right's moderates and libertarians to back Bachmann in the primary, but if she (or another socon, like Sarah Palin or Rick Santorum) makes it to the general election, who will hold Michael Smerconish and Ben Haney to the same standard?
If, for the sake of defeating Obama, social conservatives had to accept a nominee so supportive of the right to destroy innocent human life, then there's no reason our counterparts can't accept a nominee who disapproves of homosexuality yet poses no threat to gay rights for the sake of the same goal.