Mike Johnson’s views on LGBTQ issues under new scrutiny

The unexpected elevation of fourth-term Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson to Speaker of the House on Wednesday quickly sparked merciless criticism and renewed scrutiny of the representative’s once-obscure views on LGBTQ rights.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said Johnson would be “the most anti-equality speaker” in U.S. history.

“This is a choice that will stain the record of everyone who voted for him,” Robinson said in a statement Wednesday. “Johnson is someone who has no qualms about speaking from the rooftops about his contempt for the LGTBQ+ community and then introducing legislation to erase us from society.”

Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., one of the few openly gay members of Congress, appeared to lash out at Johnson during the speaker’s vote on the House floor Wednesday, shouting, “Happy wedding anniversary to my wife ! before voting for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

Even outspoken conservative Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had gripes with Johnson’s rise to power.

“So we just elected a raging homophobe as speaker…?” » McCain wrote about. “A way to break stereotypes and conquer hearts and minds!

A representative for Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding criticism of his views and past comments on LGBTQ issues.

Until Wednesday, the Louisiana Republican was relatively unknown outside Capitol Hill, having only joined Congress in 2017. But after the historic ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker and the failure of three other GOP members to land the House’s top job, Johnson — who was called an “architect” efforts to overturn the 2020 election — is suddenly second only to the presidency.

Amicus briefs and opinion pieces

In the early 2000s, Johnson worked as an attorney and spokesperson for the evangelical Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, now known as Alliance Defending Freedom. For decades, ADF – designated a “hate group» by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation of the Arizona-based group disputes – led legal efforts to criminalize same-sex sexual activity, block efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people, and ban transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

During his tenure at the ADF, Johnson sued the city of New Orleans in 2003 on behalf of the group over a local law that granted health benefits to the partners of the city’s gay workers.

The same year, he wrote an important article amicus brief in the case of Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court, arguing in favor of allowing states to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The memo argues that sex between men should be banned because it is more likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases than sex between men and women and therefore poses “a distinct public health problem.”

Shortly after the High Court’s 2003 ruling in this landmark case, in which it struck down the country’s remaining anti-sodomy laws, Johnson wrote a editorial for the Times of Shreveport, Louisiana, in which he suggested that decriminalizing gay sex could lead to the legalization of prostitution and illegal drug use.

“There is clearly no ‘right to sodomy’ in the Constitution, and the right to ‘privacy of the home’ has never placed any activity within the home outside the bounds of criminal law,” wrote Johnson at the time. “What about drugs, prostitution and counterfeiting? Make no mistake, the Lawrence decision opens the door to the weakening of many important laws and is ultimately a strategic first shot at the gay lobby’s ultimate prize: the redefinition of marriage.”

The following year, Johnson wrote another editorial in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Louisiana, suggesting that homosexuals marrying each other could encourage people to marry animals.

“Same-sex relationships are inherently unnatural and, as studies clearly show, are ultimately harmful and costly for everyone,” he wrote. “Society cannot approve of such a dangerous lifestyle. If we change marriage for this small modern minority, we will have to do it for all deviant groups. Polygamists, polyamorous people, pedophiles and others will be next to demand equal protection. They already are. There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of either gender, or a person to marry their pet.

In a separate opinion article that same year, Johnson declared that “same-sex marriage is the dark harbinger of the chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.”

Support for same-sex marriage remains at a record level in the country. More than 70% of Americans support saxosexual marriage, according to a Gallup poll released in June, including 49% of Republicans.

Entering public office

In 2015, Johnson ran unopposed for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives. During his brief tenure as a state legislator, he introduced the Marriage and Conscience Law, which critics say would allow people to discriminate against same-sex married couples. Johnson defended the bill at the time, arguing that this only prevented the state to take action against business owners who exercised their beliefs on same-sex marriage, The Advocate reported. The bill was never put to a vote.

SarahJane Guidry, executive director of the Forum for Equality, a Louisiana LGBTQ rights group, said Johnson’s tenure in the State House was “short but impactful.”

“He really paved the way for the types of conversations, the types of legislation and the types of attacks that we’re seeing today in Louisiana, whether it’s the ban on gender-affirming healthcareor the ban on young trans people playing sports“, Guidry said. “His track record, even though he didn’t stay here very long, certainly had a long-term impact.”

The Republican Party, she added, “is very careful to ensure that the very vociferous views that President Johnson has expressed in the past and that he is expressing now are in the best interest of the party going forward, and I think that this is a very scary situation as not only Louisiana, but the country to live in.

Shortly after Rep. John Fleming, R-La., announced in 2015 that he would leave the House to run for a vacant Senate seat, Johnson declared his candidacy for the House and was elected.

As a congressman, Johnson chaired the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of conservative members in the House. Reports in 2019, the committee was found to be pressuring Amazon to reverse its ban on books by an author considered “the father of conversion therapy”.

On Capitol Hill, Johnson also spearheaded the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, which sought to ban the teaching of sexual orientation, gender identity, and “transgenderism,” among other topics. , for children under 10 years old. last year, was seen as a federal version of the controversial “Don’t say gay” law.

A Speaker of the House “dangerous” for LGBTQ rights?

Gabriele Magni, an assistant professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and director of the school’s LGBTQ Policy Research Initiative, said Johnson’s rise to leadership could be “dangerous” for rights LGBTQ. He said Johnson will be able to prioritize, fundraise and give greater visibility to anti-LGBTQ policies in unprecedented ways as speaker of the 56th House.

“These positions are going to become even more dominant within the Republican Party because they are not minority positions, but they are the priority of the leadership, someone who is second in line to the presidency,” Magni said.

Johnson’s most recent Republican predecessors as president, McCarthy and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, also maintained anti-LGBTQ positions, although Johnson placed much more emphasis on the issue.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Ryan opposed same-sex marriage, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Byrd Jr. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law in 2009 by the Obama administration, expanded federal hate crime laws to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities.

McCarthy voted against the Equality Act, federal legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in 2021. As president, McCarthy — whose term became the shortest since more than 140 years old – has also done little to quell a chorus of voices. increasingly sectarian rhetoric from several inflammatory members of the Republican House.

One of those lawmakers, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., appeared to celebrate Johnson’s election to the presidency Wednesday, specifically for his stances on LGBTQ issues.

“Mike has a conservative voting history and is committed to helping me advance important legislation, like my Child Innocence Protection Act, to end child genital mutilation,” wrote Greene on X, referring to her. Invoice criminalize gender-affirming care for minors. “Let’s get to work!”

Several Republicans said they voted against Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., for speaker this week, in part because Emmer voted last year for a bill that codified protections for same-sex marriage in federal law. Emmer’s loss opened the presidency to Johnson.

Although he is arguably to the right of his Republican predecessors on LGBTQ issues and more vocal in his opposition to LGBTQ rights, Johnson’s positions are also largely consistent with mainstream Republican ideals. The latest report from the Republican National Committee platformadopted in 2016 and renewed in 2020, refers to marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman at least five times.

State and local Republican lawmakers have also moved to the right on LGBTQ issues in recent years. So far this year, state lawmakers have introduced more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills, and at least 80 have passed, according to one report. pointing by the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Wednesday afternoon, after her first social media post about the House speaker’s vote, Craig weighed in again, appearing to confirm that the mention of her birthday was a dig at Johnson.

“Proud to vote against him on my 15th anniversary with my wife, Cheryl,” she wrote about. “@RepMikeJohnson, enjoy it while it lasts – it won’t be long.”


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