Metro Weekly

Kevin McCarthy, LGBTQ Rights Opponent, Elected House Speaker

Incoming House Speaker has a history of opposing bills that seek to enumerate or expand LGBTQ rights.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy – Photo: Office of the House Republican Leader.

On Friday evening, California Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives after a week of 13 votes in which he failed to gain the support of a majority of members of the lower House.

Dissident Republicans who initially rebelled against McCarthy appeared to initially oppose his bid for the speakership based on his coziness with the Washington establishment and his initial resistance to a set of rule changes, including a provision that would allow a single House member to put forth a “motion to vacate” that would effectively depose the current speaker and trigger a new round of voting for a new House Speaker.

Initially, McCarthy lost 19, and later 20, votes from far-right Republicans associated with the House Freedom Caucus, who had demanded certain concessions. On the 12th ballot for speaker, held earlier on Friday, McCarthy made enough concessions needed to flip 14 votes, and then gained a 15th on the 13th ballot. 

Besides the motion to vacate, some of the concessions McCarthy reportedly made were that a super PAC aligned with the Republican Leader would not back candidates in open Republican primaries in safe seats — thereby giving more conservative candidates an edge; that the House would hold votes on a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and border security; that any attempt to raise the nation’s debt ceiling would be paired with spending cuts; that 12 different appropriations bills will be voted on individually; and that members of the Freedom Caucus will be guaranteed additional representation on committees, including the House Rules Committee.

On Friday evening, on the 14th ballot, McCarthy fell just one vote short of the speakership. On the 15th, he finally gained it, due in part to six anti-McCarthy Republicans — U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.) and Matthew Rosendale (Mont.) — voting “present,” thereby reducing McCarthy’s required number of votes from 218 to 215. 

McCarthy’s final total was 216 votes, to 212 for Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.). 

McCarthy, who has served in the House for the past 16 years, has a long record of voting against or vocally opposing pro-LGBTQ measures, opposing measures like the recently passed Respect for Marriage Act, the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that was approved by a Democratic-led House last year, and the Do No Harm Act, a bill that would guarantee that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to permit discrimination under the guise of “religious liberty” against various groups, including the LGBTQ community. As such — especially given McCarthy’s concessions on committee structure — it is likely that any pro-LGBTQ legislation will be bottled up in committee and will not receive a floor vote. 

Questions also abound about whether McCarthy, as speaker, will throw his support behind, and pressure members to vote for, bills favored by conservatives, such as  a “Women’s Bill of Rights,” a resolution that would define rights specifically for cisgender females and would enumerate that transgender females would be barred from single-sex spaces; or the “Protect Children’s Innocence Act,” a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that would punish doctors who prescribe gender-affirming health care treatments to transgender youth.

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