The unexpected appointment of fourth-term Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as the Speaker of the House has ignited a fresh wave of criticism and scrutiny, particularly regarding his stance on LGBTQ rights. Mike Johnson, a relatively unknown figure outside of Capitol Hill until now, is suddenly second in line to the presidency following the historic ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, wasted no time in expressing concerns. Robinson labeled Johnson as potentially “the most anti-equality” speaker in U.S. history, citing his past expressions of disdain for the LGBTQ+ community and legislative efforts that aimed to erase LGBTQ+ individuals from society.
Rep. Angie Craig, one of the few openly gay members of Congress, indirectly addressed Johnson during the speaker vote, adding a personal touch by wishing her wife a happy wedding anniversary before casting her vote for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Even prominent conservative Meghan McCain voiced her reservations about Johnson’s ascension to power, raising questions about electing someone with a history of anti-LGBTQ sentiments as House Speaker.
Despite these concerns, a representative for Johnson declined to comment on criticisms of his views and prior comments on LGBTQ issues.
Before entering Congress, Johnson worked as an attorney and spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an evangelical Christian legal group that spearheaded efforts to limit LGBTQ rights. His involvement with ADF included legal actions against laws providing health care benefits to the partners of gay city workers and advocacy for the criminalization of same-sex consensual sex.
During his time as a state lawmaker in Louisiana, Johnson introduced the Marriage and Conscience Act, which critics argued could enable discrimination against same-sex married couples. Although the bill was never brought to a vote, it had a lasting impact on LGBTQ rights discussions in the state.
Gabriele Magni, a political science professor, and LGBTQ rights researcher, expressed concerns about Johnson’s rise to leadership, citing potential dangers for LGBTQ rights. Magni noted that Johnson’s position as Speaker of the House could bring anti-LGBTQ policies to the forefront of the Republican Party’s agenda.
While Johnson’s views on LGBTQ issues may be at odds with the majority of Americans, it is worth noting that his positions align with some mainstream Republican ideals, as evidenced by the Republican National Committee’s platform, which defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
As LGBTQ rights continue to face challenges at the state and federal levels, Johnson’s tenure as House Speaker raises important questions about the direction of LGBTQ equality in the United States.