On a party-line vote, congressional Republicans selected U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, elevating to the third-most important position in U.S. government a man whose anti-LGBTQ activism precedes his election to Congress.
Johnson, who was selected as House Speaker due to his ability to convince its most conservative members that he’ll hold the line on government spending and eschew making deals with Democrats is a constitutional lawyer who previously argued — and voted — in favor of invalidating the 2020 election results.
According to The New York Times, Johnson, whom the newspaper called “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections,” crafted arguments alleging that certain states’ changes to voting procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional. Therefore, he argued, the election results from those states should have been invalidated.
On Tuesday night, after being nominated, a reporter tried to ask Johnson about his role in pushing to decertify the results of the 2020 election, only to be shouted down by members of the GOP caucus, who told the reporter to “shut up.”
Johnson grinned slyly, shaking his head and refusing to answer.
Politically, Johnson is a tried-and-true conservative, earning a lifetime rating of 92% from the American Conservative Union and 90% from Heritage Action.
He has voted against a host of bipartisan bills, including a measure to establish a January 6 independent commission, and some of the Biden administration’s chief legislative accomplishments, including a national infrastructure funding bill, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act.
Earlier this year, Johnson voted in favor of raising the debt limit, but voted against a bill to avoid a government shutdown in early October.
He has previously indicated, in a letter to colleagues shared to social media by U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), that he intends to oppose an omnibus spending bill, instead choosing to pass limited appropriations bills that will fund the government in the short-term, with the aim of drastically cutting federal spending — a chief goal of many conservative Republicans.
On LGBTQ issues, Johnson is a clear foe of the LGBTQ community.
He served as a national media spokesperson and senior attorney for the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom. The right-wing organization has been behind key legal cases challenging same-sex marriage rights, the right of same-sex couples to adopt without being discriminated against, bans on conversion therapy, trans-inclusive school and sports policies, and LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.
According to Accountable for Equality, while working at Alliance Defending Freedom, Johnson led a campaign against GLSEN’s annual anti-bullying “Day of Silence,” during which students remain silent as a show of support for LGBTQ people who are discriminated against and bullied for their identities.
The silence is meant to draw attention to the isolation that many LGBTQ youth feel when no one — adult or student — will speak up on their behalf or defend them.
As part of that campaign, ADF encouraged conservative and religious students to take part in the “Day of Truth,” scheduled for the day after the “Day of Silence,” donning T-shirts with the slogan “The Truth Cannot Be Silenced” and passing out cards declaring their unwillingness to condone “detrimental personal and social behavior.”
Johnson said, at the time, that the Day of Truth is meant to be “peaceful and respectful,” but also to communicate the message that homosexuality is both “sinful” and “destructive.”
“No one is for bullying and harassment,” Johnson said. “But that’s cloaking their real message — that homosexuality is good for society,” he said.
While he was working for ADF, the organization submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the justices on the high court not to overturn laws criminalizing consensual same-sex behavior.
The high court ultimately did not heed ADF’s plea when it struck down anti-sodomy laws throughout the nation in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas.
In a 2004 editorial piece in The News-Star, a Monroe, Louisiana-based newspaper, Johnson argued against the legalization of same-sex marriage using a “slippery slope” argument.
“If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group,” he wrote. “Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”
In a separate editorial, he argued against legal protections for LGBTQ people.
As a Louisiana state representative, Johnson introduced a “religious freedom” bill to allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples, and proposed a bill to allow churches and clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages — a right they already enjoy.
In Congress, Johnson authored the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022” which would prohibit federal funds from being used to develop, implement, or fund any program, event, or literature that exposes children under the age of 10 to so-called “sexually-oriented material.”
The bill, which would have affected schools, libraries, military bases, and hospitals receiving federal funds, defines “sexually-oriented material” as information that references “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender dysphoria, or related subjects.”
Critics have likened that legislation to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“The Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” Johnson said in a statement promoting the bill.
Johnson also voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, a federal law signed by President Joe Biden, that ensures that same-sex marriages — at least, those legally performed in states without bans on same-sex nuptials — will be recognized as valid by the federal and various state governments.
In keeping with his opposition to LGBTQ-inclusive legal protections, he also voted against the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.
He has also co-sponsored legislation by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) that would make it a crime to provide gender-affirming care to transgender-identifying minors, and would prohibit medical schools from teaching future doctors about gender-affirming hormonal or surgical treatments.
LGBTQ advocates lamented Johnson’s elevation to House speaker.
“The MAGA House majority has selected the most anti-equality Speaker in U.S. history by elevating Mike Johnson — this is a choice that will be a stain on the record of everyone who voted for him,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement. “Johnson is someone who doesn’t hesitate to express his disdain for the LGTBQ+ community from the rooftops and then introduces legislation that seeks to erase us from society.”
Robinson added, “Just like Jim Jordan, Mike Johnson is an election-denying, anti-LGBTQ+ extremist, and the lawmakers who appeared to stand on principle in opposing Jordan’s bid have revealed themselves to be just as out-of-touch as their new leader.”
Allen Morris, policy director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, also called out Johnson’s anti-LGBTQ record and his attempts to override the will of American voters by decertifying the 2020 election results.
“I would be hard-pressed to think of a worse member to be elected speaker of the house, not simply for LGBTQ communities, but for the American people,” Morris said in a statement.
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, condemned the choice of Johnson as Speaker, accusing him of opposing critical civil rights protections.
“An anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ+ elected leader should not be third in line to the presidency,” he said in a statement.
Johns called on the public to urge their members of Congress to remove Johnson from the Speaker’s chair and “find someone more worthy” of the position.
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