Since her son Justin’s suicide last year, Tammy Aaberg has been standing up against the anti-gay bullying that led him to take his own life. Justin was one of nine students in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District who committed suicide over just a few years, deaths that many attribute to the district’s “neutrality” policy. The rule was instituted in 1995 and prohibits teachers and staff from talking about LGBT people, which creates complications for bullying intervention. Most of the district is in Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R) district, so tomorrow, Aaberg and CREDO Action will deliver 130,000 petition signatures calling on Bachmann to speak out against anti-gay bullying. CREDO Action’s political director, Becky Bond, explains the outreach to Bachmann:
BOND: As a congresswoman, a former Anoka-Hennepin student, and a mother Michele Bachmann is in an important position to speak out against this heartless rule, and the tragic suicides that have led public health officials to call the area a ‘suicide contagion.’ Instead, Bachmann has remained completely silent on this issue.
It’s true that Bachmann has not commented directly on the situation at Anoka-Hennepin, but her anti-gay record and connections to those trying to maintain the “neutrality” policy speak for themselves. In 2004, Bachmann condemned adding “homosexual curriculum” to schools, suggesting “it leads to the personal enslavement of individuals.” One of the biggest defenders of the harmful policy is Barb Anderson, spokeswoman for both the Parents Action League and Minnesota Family Council. She and her husband George Anderson have donated over $26,000 to Bachmann’s political career. Another strong proponent of the Anoka-Hennepin policy is Janet Boynes, the ex-gay advocate “friend” of the Bachmanns whose book Marcus Bachmann offers to patients in his Christian counseling clinics.
Aaberg will not be the first to challenge Bachmann to stand against anti-LGBT bullying. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called on her to do the same in July, suggesting her presidential credentials were in question if she could not condemn the harassment of young people.
Every time a public figure promotes anti-gay rhetoric, it funnels down and hurts young people. It’s unlikely Bachmann will reverse all of her homophobic positions, but Aaberg’s petitions will certainly draw into question Bachmann’s ability to respond to her constituents’ concerns.