House riled by lawmaker’s comments on “gay lifestyle”

Several members of the Minnesota House are criticizing Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, for introducing a friend on the House floor by saying that that he said "exited the gay lifestyle."

Gruenhagen used what's called in the House vernacular "a point of personal privilege" to introduce Kevin Petersen, who is a member of the Pro-Marriage Amendment Forum that worked to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

"The interesting thing about Kevin is he was active in the gay lifestyle for about ten years and then he left it, got married and now has three children," Gruenhagen said.

While some members clapped, a bipartisan group of lawmakers groaned when Gruenhagen made his comments. The announcement prompted DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen to ban the practice of allowing members to publicly introduce guests who visit the chambers.

"It's a totally inappropriate use of the point of personal privilege," Thissen said. "It offends members of our legislative body."

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said he was shocked by Gruenhagen's comments.

"It was an absolutely inappropriate use of the privilege of the House and it was very offensive. I'm glad the speaker ruled the way that he did," Paymar said.

Gruenhagen's comments came one day before committees in the House and Senate hold a hearing on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Gruenhagen couldn't be reached for comment after his speech. He opposes the bill. He made news a few weeks ago when he said during a news conference that homosexuality is "an unhealthy, sexual addiction" and argued that there is "no gay gene."

GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt initially sidestepped questions about Gruenhagen's comments, but later issued a statement calling Gruenhagen's comments "inappropriate." He agreed with Thissen on the decision to stop allowing members to announce guests on the House floor.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.