Metro Weekly

The Anti-LGBTQ Record of Steve Scalise

Presumptive House Speaker Steve Scalise is likely to support anti-LGBTQ legislation as he has throughout his entire congressional career.

Steve Scalise – Photo: American Life League, via Flickr

On Wednesday, Republican members of Congress emerged from a caucus meeting behind closed doors to announce that they had selected U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) as their nominee to be the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Prior to the behind-the-scenes vote, Scalise, who most recently served as Majority Leader under the now-deposed Speaker Kevin McCarthy, was rumored to have the support of swing-district Republicans who fancy themselves “moderates” and a sizable portion of conservative members who saw him as the most capable of governing.

Scalise’s chief rival, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who former Republican President Donald Trump endorsed, enjoyed support from members of the far-right Freedom Caucus and members who fretted that Scalise’s health — the Louisiana Republican is undergoing chemotherapy to treat a form of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma — might limit his ability to be effective.

But despite Jordan’s popularity among the GOP caucus’s most conservative members, Scalise emerged victorious, with 113 votes to Jordan’s 99 votes, according to Fox News

It remains unclear whether Scalise has the votes to win the Speakership on the first ballot, or whether some Republicans will withhold their support for further policy concessions — which would likely result in multiple rounds of balloting, as occurred earlier this year when McCarthy sought the speakership.

U.S. Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for instance, told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo during a recent interview that she planned to wring concessions from the next House Speaker in exchange for her support.

One of the concessions she sought was a promise to pass the so-called “Protect Children’s Innocence Act,” a bill she sponsored that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, which has not yet been passed out of committee in the Republican-controlled House.

The bill would penalize doctors who provide such care to minors, prohibit government funding from being used to cover the cost of hormones or surgery for transgender adults seeking to transition medically, and ban medical schools from teaching future doctors about transition-related care or administering gender-affirming treatments. 

Greene also said she would demand the next Speaker refuse to pass bills granting military aid to Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia’s illegal invasion of the country.

While it remains unclear whether Scalise has agreed to Greene’s demands, he may have to concede to them if he wants her vote.

Given Republicans’ small margins in the lower chamber, any defections are likely to result in multiple rounds of balloting, undercutting the next Speaker — presumably Scalise — and potentially weakening his standing.

To emerge victorious, Scalise needs the votes of at least 217 of 221 House Republicans.

Scalise, who was elected to Congress in 2008 in a special election, is ideologically similar to Jordan, meaning the choice for Republicans was more likely to be based on personal relationships and intangible qualities rather than quantifiable criteria.

Scalise has a solidly conservative voting record dating back over a decade-and-a-half and stances on various issues that most rank-and-file members within the GOP caucus find appealing. 

On LGBTQ issues, he could reasonably be expected to tow the party line on everything from opposing laws prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination to supporting religious exemptions for people with anti-LGBTQ beliefs to the GOP’s current obsession with transgender issues and displays of gender nonconformity.

Since entering Congress, Scalise has sponsored a constitutional amendment seeking to prohibit same-sex marriage, voted against the repeal of the military’s now-defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, voted against LGBTQ nondiscrimination bills, like the Equality Act, and opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, which ensured that same-sex marriages performed in states where the practice is not explicitly banned will be recognized as valid by states — even those with constitutional bans on the books — and by the federal government.

Had Republicans selected Jordan instead of Scalise, very little would be different, both in terms of the overall political landscape in the House and specifically with regard to LGBTQ issues.

Jordan, who has served in Congress since 2007, has been among the chief opponents of marriage equality. In 2015, just prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision overturning state-level bans on same-sex marriage, Jordan co-sponsored a resolution for a constitutional amendment to prohibit the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions.

Jordan also opposed the Respect for Marriage Act last year, and, in an act of trolling supporters of same-sex marriage, invited the controversial Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis — who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and others — as his guest to the 2016 State of the Union Address. 

More recently, Jordan, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, has been vocal in attacking the Biden administration for warning about right-wing activists who have sought to play on people’s emotions and spread misinformation by exploiting debates over LGBTQ-inclusive policies or educational materials. He has accused the Biden administration of likening parents who oppose such policies to domestic terrorists. 

Additionally, Jordan has used his chairmanship to organize hearings to oppose LGBTQ rights, pushing for hearings on anti-transgender pieces of legislation that mirror those passed in state legislatures. 

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