Reporting Esme Murphy
WAITE PARK, Minn. (WCCO) – The mother of a young gay teen who killed himself last year delivered a petition to the staff of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
Tammi Aaberg wants Bachmann, who has a long history of opposing gay marriage, to take a stand against bullying of gays.
Justin Aaberg was 15 years old and a student at Anoka High School when he took his life.
In the past two years, eight students in the district have killed themselves and the district is accused in a lawsuit of failing to protect gays.
Reporters were not allowed in the meeting at Bachmann’s office in Waite Park. During the meeting, Aaberg and three gay teen activists presented Bachmann staffers with a petition with more than a 100,000 signatures calling on the congresswoman to denounce bullying of gays.
Bachmann was out of state on the presidential campaign trail on Thursday. Aaberg believes Bachmann, who represents the Anoka-Hennepin School District area in Congress, could be an important ally.
“We think she, in the position that she’s at, especially running for president, a lot of people would look up to her and follow her lead if she could take this huge step,” Aaberg said.
She said her son Justin was the victim of relentless bullying over his sexual orientation.
“I loved him so much and I care so much about the other kids. I don’t want them to be in the same position,” Aaberg said.
Justin Anderson, who graduated from Blaine High School which is also in the district, blames Anoka-Hennepin’s policies for not protecting and reaching out to gay kids.
“I think it hurts kids. Because this policy is just shutting out gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and questioning youth and their allies,” Anderson said.
Bachmann’s long history of opposing gay marriage has made her a longtime target for gay activists.
Recently, her husband Marcus’ counseling practice drew fire for trying to convert gays to become heterosexual.
But Aaberg is hopeful that the congresswoman will take a stand.
“Her office was really great,” said Aaberg. “I am very hopeful that Bachmann will either reach out or come up with a positive response for the country.”
The congresswoman’s press secretary issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying Bachmann will be reviewing Aaberg’s request as well as the petition and when she is finished with the review she will respond.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District also released a statement saying that the district “stands behind any and all efforts to end bullying of gay students.”