But Bachmann focused most of her time in the Legislature on the same-sex marriage amendment. Minnesota had outlawed same-sex marriage already, but after the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned a similar law in November 2003, Bachmann wanted to ensure the state Constitution included the ban too.
By March of 2004, Bachmann “tried every which way but loose” to bring the constitutional amendment to a floor vote, according to former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R). The House voted to put the amendment on the ballot, but the state Senate Judiciary Committee opted against sending it to the floor for a full vote.
Even though the legislation was effectively dead for that session, the issue lived on. Gay rights groups boycotted Bachmann’s hometown of Stillwater. She responded by inviting everyone who supported the amendment to shop in the town for a weekend.
Meanwhile, the canon of Bachmann lore is filled with well-documented antics of her crusade against same-sex marriage during this time.
For example, it’s been widely reported that Bachmann crouched behind some bushes on the grounds of the state Capitol to observe a protest of her amendment in 2005. When the Minneapolis Star Tribune confronted her about it, she blamed her uncomfortable shoes.
“I had high heels on and I just couldn’t stand anymore. I was not in the bushes,” she told the newspaper.
At a town hall meeting that same year, Bachmann emerged screaming from the women’s restroom, accusing two women of holding her there against her will. Bachmann filed a police report documenting the incident, but the couple claim they followed her to ask her a question.
And Bachmann’s earlier efforts on the same-sex marriage ban were not in vain. Earlier this year, the GOP-controlled state House and Senate voted to put the constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot.
“It’s ironic that finally Michele gets her way the year she runs for president,” said one Minneapolis-based journalist who covered Bachmann extensively.
Thriving in the Minority
Bachmann and Pawlenty moved within the same political circles for the past decade but forged different paths to the same destination: the Republican presidential primary.
Pawlenty served as governor from 2003 through 2010, while Bachmann served in the state Senate until 2006, when she successfully ran for Congress. Minnesotans describe their relationship as “cordial” but remember that she was the lone Senate Republican holdout on Pawlenty’s signature “JOBZ” legislation in 2003, which gave tax breaks to businesses willing to set up shop in northern Minnesota.
As they compete for GOP primary voters, Pawlenty has taken jabs at what he says is Bachmann’s lack of experience.
Pawlenty attended the April 2000 nominating convention where Bachmann got her political start, Laidig said. Then the House Majority Leader, Pawlenty was there to support one of his endangered state House colleagues seeking the party’s endorsement at the same venue. Republicans who worked with them described relations between the two as lukewarm.