Gabe Aderhold was nervous. He was in enemy territory, with one chance to get what he wanted out in the open.
The 17-year-old was more than familiar with the GOP frontrunner. A family friend’s son committed suicide in 2009, believed to have been bullied for being gay. The family resides in the district represented by Michele Bachmann.
Originally, Gabe wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He didn’t have a plan in the works. He drove to Ames, Iowa with a friend. The only certainty was confronting a Republican candidate.
But which one?
He had researched all of them thoroughly. Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty had all signed the Family Leader’s vow keeping marriage between one man and one woman.
Gabe started with Pawlenty, another Minnesotan, to make it personal. Pawlenty held a Q&A and Gabe calmly asked his question.
“I want to know — when will you stand up for me…because you are discriminating against me and it hurts, it really does...I support that you have your moral values, but that is something that is hurting my future and how I get to live my life…why does government get involved in our marriages?”
Pawlenty played it off, reaffirming the importance of traditional marriage. Gabe didn’t back down, re-asking his question.
“We're just going to have a respectful disagreement, sir,” Pawlenty replied.
After that, Gabe set his sights on Bachmann’s rally. Someone recognized him from Pawlenty’s gathering, and interviewed him. During the interview they were interrupted. Another man argued with Gabe, telling him to ‘get over’ the bullying.
Bachmann arrived thirty minutes late to address the crowds. Gabe saw Bachmann was not going to take questions. Once she began talking about “making the down payment on taking the country back,” the adrenaline took over.
Gabe was not intending to heckle, but he knew there would be push-back from the crowd. But his direct and personal message to Bachmann had to be heard.
As she made her way through the crowd to shake hands, he called out a mere ten feet away.
“Shame on you! I’m a second-class citizen, Michele! Second-class citizen!”
She caught one quick glimpse of Gabe before moving on. Instantaneously, the confident candidate who had won the Iowa Straw Poll was ready to go. She and her entourage began to push through the crowd.
“You can’t pray the gay away!”
Gabe continued to try for her attention while dodging glares from her husband Marcus.
“What about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every American, Michele?”
The calm atmosphere vanished.
Bachmann and her people made a mad dash for a golf cart, shoving several spectators out of the way, including CNN’s Don Lemon. Team Bachmann fled, all because one teenage activist challenged her on her number one dodged issue — homosexuality.
Gabe Aderhold has always had a fervor for politics. Since 2006 he has volunteered or at least supported various candidates within Minnesota. As a teenager, he began to realize that he was different, culminating with coming out to his friends and family in 2010 at 16.
“I didn’t really have the ‘sit down talk’ with my parents. But they knew I had been involved with various LGBT organizations, marched in the Pride parade. I’ve had nothing but support.”
As a politically engaged teen, Gabe has seen the lack of progress from Michele Bachmann since her election to the House of Representatives. A figurehead who has not done anything significant during her tenure, a career filled with smoke, mirrors and a flawed rhetoric.
“She has not accomplished anything. Everything she has tried to pass in Congress has failed. She lives in a completely different world. It doesn’t matter if something was proven true or false, she is so stuck on her ideological path that she is disillusioned to fact.”
In all of her campaign appearances, Bachmann has skirted the issue of homosexuality, but her evangelical feelings are well-known.
Her husband Marcus has come under fire for comparing gays to “barbarians” and has had to defend his clinic against allegations of conversion therapy.
During the Aug. 14 edition of NBC’s Meet The Press, Bachmann fumbled through questioning from anchor David Gregory, who presented her with her own words from 2004 in which she called gays and lesbians “part of Satan...with sexual dysfunction and sexual identity disorders.”
“That is the view that President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?” Gregory asked.
“I am running for the presidency of the United States. I am not running to be anyone’s judge,” Bachmann replied.
Gabe believes no one will ever get a clear answer from Bachmann on homosexuality.
“She will never acknowledge her reasoning,” he said. “She will never have a real conversation on this issue.”
Since that day, Gabe’s message has gone viral. C-SPAN videos, articles on Huffington Post, The Advocate and towleroad.com. Gabe has become the face of those who are fed up with the festering growth of Bachmann and her base.
He has had offers for blogs, even a documentary about him. But for now, he’s focused on completing his senior year at Edina High School, and graduating.
He still wants to communicate with people. He is actively trying to respond to everyone who has supported him since the confrontation.
He also wants more people challenging the candidates.
“We all need to make that direct connection. We aren’t the bullies, and we need to start standing up for ourselves. We need to start questioning people who could be leading our country, and in the wrong direction. The direction Michele Bachmann is running her campaign, with the values she has, that is not the values I learned to love our country for.”
BY: MATT JAMIESON