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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 16, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 50
Iowa teen argues the good argument
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Iowa teen argues the good argument

by Leslie Robinson - SGN Contributing Writer

I give Jane Schmidt a world of credit. The Iowa high school student held her own in an exchange with Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. At Schmidt's age, shaking a candidate's hand was enough to make me forget my name.

I grew up in New Hampshire, where, due to the state's first-in-the-nation primary, presidential candidates are as abundant as black flies. I assume the Iowa caucuses mean the Hawkeye State is likewise swarming with presidential wannabes.

These famous and important people are intimidating when you're young, and I couldn't have managed more than reading a question aloud before losing the use of my vocal cords.

Not so Jane Schmidt, on a recent day in the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Waverly, Iowa. The Des Moines Register, which carried an account of the back-and-forth with Bachmann, didn't give Schmidt's age or her year in school, but did say she's the president of Waverly High School's Gay-Straight Alliance, so I'll think of her as a senior.

I'll also take a moment to drop my jaw that Waverly High even has a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Standing amidst a supportive crowd of about 65 people, mostly middle-aged and elderly, Michele Bachmann might've thought she was home free. Then, as a CNN video showed, she and her microphone headed toward the student in the red plaid trooper hat.

Schmidt told Bachmann she was concerned about the lack of government support for the LGBT community. Bachmann replied that the government's job is to protect civil rights. 'We all have the same civil rights,' she concluded. That would've been the moment where I'd have thought to myself, 'There's something wrong with that statement and MY GOD everyone is staring at me.'

Not Schmidt. She responded, 'Then, why can't same-sex couples get married?'

The candidate answered, 'They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they're a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they're a man.'

Now that the country has gotten a peek at Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus, a sizable number of people believe that the woman is speaking from experience here.

Schmidt asked why two men can't marry, and Bachmann answered that's the law. 'So heterosexual couples have a privilege,' responded Schmidt.

She was still being logical, while I'd have long since been carried away on a stretcher.

Straight couples have the same legal opportunity, said Bachmann. 'There is no right to same-sex marriage.'

Except for where she was standing. It escaped Bachmann's notice that same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa.

'So you won't support the LGBT community?' asked the student.

'No, I said that there are no special rights for people based upon your sex practices,' said the congresswoman, who must've been annoyed at God for forcing her to talk about sex with a high school student in front of scads of Iowa senior citizens.

Ella Newell, a junior at the high school, tried to advance the point about privilege before the debate ended with Bachmann repeating that every American can marry, just someone of the opposite sex.

Most of Bachmann's statements received applause, probably as much an attempt to silence the girls as to indicate support. But Schmidt carried on, doggedly and civilly, despite the disapproval of her neighbors, and despite the presence of reporters and cameras.

I hope someone bought her a pizza afterwards. Unless she felt like throwing up.

After the exchange between the high school students and the congresswoman, a young man told Schmidt and Newell that they should 'emulate' Bachmann.

Yes, if Schmidt conforms and turns into an always-feminine Christian soldier she could land a guy like him.

Now I'm sure she felt like throwing up.

Leslie Robinson remembers meeting 1976 presidential candidate Mo Udall and trying not to stare at his glass eye. Email Leslie at lesarobinson@gmail.com, and check out her blog at www.generalgayety.com.

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