In a recent episode of his Firebrand podcast, far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida ignited a political firestorm by insinuating that fellow House Republican Jason Smith, representing Missouri, may be a closeted gay man. The comments came amidst a heated exchange of accusations between the two lawmakers, shedding light on the internal tensions within the House Republican caucus.
Jason Smith had accused Gaetz of lying about former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s involvement in sabotaging the candidacies of several Republican nominees for Speaker. This dispute emerged following Gaetz and seven other House Republicans voting to eject McCarthy from the speakership in early October, ultimately leading to the election of staunchly anti-LGBTQ+ Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana to the leadership position.
Gaetz’s insinuations took center stage when he replayed Smith’s remark that “if Matt Gaetz’s lips are moving, it’s only lies that’s coming out of it.” Gaetz countered by suggesting that Jason Smith himself may be living a lie regarding his sexual orientation, insinuating that Smith is a closeted gay man.
Jason Smith, an unmarried 43-year-old and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has a history of opposing LGBTQ+ rights. He vocally opposed marriage equality after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision, advocating that “the people, not the courts, should decide the future of marriage in America.” Additionally, he co-authored the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, a bill aimed at banning transgender athletes from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identities.
This controversy has drawn attention to the broader issue of LGBTQ+ rights within the Republican Party, as both Gaetz and Smith have taken stances that are not supportive of LGBTQ+ equality. While Gaetz did not support the Equality Act or the Respect for Marriage Act, Smith’s record on LGBTQ+ issues has also been contentious. As these tensions simmer within the party, the question of LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance continues to be a topic of debate among House Republicans.