Conservative Christian politico and religious right gadfly Allen Quist announced last week that he is challenging Rep. Tim Walz in 2012 for the First Congressional District. The differences between the two on LGBT issues is stark — Walz supports LGBT equality, Quist once compared the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan.
Walz, who represents the southern part of Minnesota, has called for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and challenged the constitutionality of that act. He’s supported the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and spoke out in support of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Quist, on the other hand, has a record of maligning the LGBT community. In a profile piece I wrote about Quist for the Minnesota Independent in December 2009, the last time Quist ran against Walz (and lost), I noted a story about Quist from the 1980s
Quist was elected to the Minnesota House in 1982 just as the religious right was gaining influence in the Republican party. He told the Washington Post in 1985, “I don’t know how to gauge it, but I can say this: At the last [Republican] convention, the Christian right was able to do virtually anything it wanted to.”
He gained some fame in the late 1980s, as a state legislator, for bold conservative stances. In the 1988 legislative session, he racked up a cumulative 30 hours on the House floor speaking about sex. He railed against what he he saw as the evils of homosexuality and sex education in the schools. He tried to get a counseling center for gays and lesbians at Mankato State University shut down. “He alleged that Mankato State University was encouraging the spread of AIDS by sponsoring a counseling center for gays, comparing it to a center for the Ku Klux Klan,” wrote the Star Tribune’s Dane Smith in 1994.
When that failed, Quist entered an adult bookstore in Mankato looking to see if anyone was engaged in sexual activity in order to have it shut down.
Fast forward to the 1990s, Quist ran a primary challenge against sitting Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican that Quist thought was too liberal. Quist beat Carlson for the GOP nomination at the state convention, but went on to lose.
In 1994, during the height of media attention on Quist, he told CNN, “Religious people are looking for a voice, and without me, they have no voice in Minnesota.”
Quist went after his opponent with an attack mailer in the summer of 1994 saying — incorrectly — that Carlson supports “abortion on demand, even through the ninth month of pregnancy” and that he was “supporting homosexual marriages.”
Landing the GOP endorsement over a sitting Republican governor sparked a media frenzy rivaling those by fellow conservative Christian Michele Bachmann today, including stories in the New York Times and CNN. But it wasn’t enough to unseat Carlson, who trounced Quist in the primary.
It’s not only the LGBT community that Quist has had problems with, he’s also made some striking comments about women.
Quist’s church, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, holds some controversial views, including the belief that women should be subservient to men. The ELS’ website states that, since 1990, its official teaching includes: “The purpose of the wife’s submitting to her husband and of the woman’s being submissive within the Christian congregation is also to carry out a beautiful plan, viz., the establishment of a marriage that not only lasts but is also a wonderful harmony, and the establishment of an orderly and harmonious fellowship within the congregation.”
Quist caught quite a bit of flak for a similar statement made to the Twin Cities Reader in 1994: “The fact then that traditionally you do have situations where the husband has been recognized as the head of the home is probably a natural thing, probably based in genetics, just like everything else is.”