As the slate of candidates challenging President Obama in 2012 begins to gel, at least one Republican may be waylaid by ties to a family business allegedly specializing in anti-gay “reparative therapy.”
Activists say Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination in June, and her husband derive significant income from the two Christian mental health clinics they own in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul. Michele Bachmann, a favorite of the Tea Party, has made reducing the reach of the federal government her signature campaign promise even while the clinic earned more than $137,000 from Medicaid payments over seven years, according to ABC News. The Web site for the clinics, Bachmann & Associates Incorporated, claims Marcus Bachmann “is a popular conference speaker with practical insights, biblical principles, and humor interwoven in his messages.”
Undercover activists from Truth Wins Out, a group that “fight[s] anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth,” infiltrated Dr. Marcus Bachmann’s clinic with hidden cameras in late June. ABC News broadcast the footage, in which an activist posing as a patient discussed treatment options for his homosexuality, on Nightline Monday.
“You’re in the midst of a storm; you’re in the midst of a battle. The truth is that God has designed our eyes to be attracted to the woman’s body, to be attracted to, you know, everything. To be attracted to her breasts,” a counselor says to the gay man seeking to “cure” his homosexuality. The Bachmanns refused to comment on the video other than to cite doctor-patient confidentiality.
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its roster of mental disorders in 1974. More recently, the American Psychological Association denounced so-called “reparative therapy” and the belief that religious prayer can alter one’s innate sexual orientation. Clinton Anderson, director of its Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, told ABC News that “ex-gay” therapy is not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous. “The harm is that when people are already in distress, and feeling conflict about their religion and their sexuality, to tell them they can change if they work hard enough, when in fact they can’t do that…just makes their distress and their shame—their depression—even worse,” Anderson said.
Rep. Bachmann waded into a similar controversy late last week when she eagerly signed a pledge issued by the Family Leader, an Iowa-based Christian conservative group. Bob Vander Plaats, the group’s CEO, spearheaded the successful effort last year to remove the three state judges who had ruled same-sex marriage constitutional. The purpose of the group’s proclamation, he told the Des Moines Register, is to extract a promise from all presidential candidates to “pledge personal fidelity to your own spouse and a respect for the marital bonds of others.”
Among the tenets in the document, candidates must oppose “any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage—faithful monogamy between one man and one woman—through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.” They also agree to a “steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.”
Besides Bachmann, the only other candidate to sign the pledge was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a well-known foe of gay rights who once likened same-sex marriage to bestiality.