New House Speaker Johnson once equated LGBTQs to pedophiles

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 25, 2023
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Mike Johnson, a conservative Republican who has espoused anti-LGBTQ views, was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives October 25. Photo: Congressmember Johnson's office
Mike Johnson, a conservative Republican who has espoused anti-LGBTQ views, was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives October 25. Photo: Congressmember Johnson's office

A three-week leadership battle in the United States House of Representatives ended October 25 with Congressmember Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) selected as the body's 56th speaker.

But Johnson has already come under criticism for his hardline, conservative stance on LGBTQ people.

"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," stated Kelley Robinson, a queer Black woman who is president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization. "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."

Johnson worked for over a decade as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, considered an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. ADF has brought many conservative cases to the U.S. Supreme Court and has won 15 times, according to a recent profile in The New Yorker.

During that time, Johnson argued against the Day of Silence, an event held to protest the bullying of queer kids, according to a 2006 San Francisco Chronicle report that quoted him as saying that the day of action is "another perspective on the homosexual lifestyle, which many people believe is morally wrong and physically dangerous."

HRC also stated in its news release that Johnson wrote in a 2004 editorial for the News-Star, a Monroe, Louisiana newspaper, that "if we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection."

More recently, Johnson introduced the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022, which critics dubbed a national version of Florida's so-called Don't Say Gay legislation. The bill would have prohibited any federal funding toward material discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with children under 10. It stalled in the House committees on oversight and reform, and education and labor, and has not been reintroduced.

"The Democrat[ic] Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology," he said at the time.

Not everyone is displeased with the Republicans' choice for speaker. American Principles Project President Terry Shilling brought up the children's bill in a statement praising Johnson's election as House leader, stating he hopes the 51-year-old representative will be an "excellent" speaker.

"Congressman Mike Johnson has been a stalwart conservative and pro-family champion during his time in the House," Shilling stated. "In particular, he has been outspoken on the harms of gender ideology to children, vocally opposing the use of transgender drugs and surgeries on minors. He also notably sponsored the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act, an APP-endorsed bill which would end all federal funding for sexually oriented programs aimed at kids under 10 years old."

Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the California Republican Party, hopes he will help "get our country back on track."

"Congratulations to Speaker Johnson on his election as the 56th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives," she stated. "I am thankful our party has united and is moving forward on behalf of the American people. I look forward to working with Speaker Johnson and Speaker Emeritus [Kevin] McCarthy to keep and grow our House seats here in California, to continue holding the failing Biden administration accountable."

Fractured House GOP unites

McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, won a protracted fight to be elected speaker in January after Republicans took control of the body. But he was voted out of that role October 3 after a revolt led by hardline Congressmember Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who was upset that McCarthy negotiated with President Joe Biden to avert a government shutdown in September.

McCarthy, who won the speakership on the 15th ballot, became the first-ever speaker to be removed during a legislative session, and held the role for the third-shortest time in U.S. history.

Johnson is the fourth candidate to have run since McCarthy's ouster. Johnson received the votes of all 220 Republicans in attendance during the House's October 25 session; all 209 Democrats voted for Minority Leader Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York).

Another government shutdown may come beginning November 17 unless Biden and Johnson are willing or able to come to an agreement. Critics of Johnson also pointed out his opposition to U.S. funding of Ukraine's defense against Russia's invasion, for which Biden asked Congress for more money during a nationally televised Oval Office address last week.

Biden stated he and his wife Jill "congratulate Speaker Johnson on his election."

"As I said when this process began, whoever the speaker is, I will seek to work with them in good faith on behalf of the American people," the president stated. "That's a principle I have always held to, and that I've acted on — delivering major bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, outcompeting China, gun reform, and veterans care."

Biden brought up both the impending shutdown and his request for $100 billion for military aid to Ukraine and Israel, which went to war with Hamas earlier this month.

"We need to move swiftly to address our national security needs and to avoid a shutdown in 22 days," Biden stated. "Even though we have real disagreements about important issues, there should be mutual effort to find common ground wherever we can."

As for Johnson, critics have also brought up his actions during the insurrection on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. NBC News reported Johnson led over 100 House Republicans in filing an amicus brief to a lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who brought the suit — lacked "a judicially cognizable interest" in bringing it.

HRC's Robinson brought attention to that, calling Johnson "an election-denying, anti-LGBTQ+ extremist" and added that "the lawmakers who appeared to stand on principle in opposing [failed speaker nominee Congressmember Jim] Jordan's bid have revealed themselves to be just as out-of-touch as their new leader."

Derek Marshall, a gay man and Democrat who's challenging California Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R), who represents a district in the high desert east of Los Angeles, stated in a fundraising email that "Obernolte and Johnson voted together to overturn the 2020 election and against the January 6 commission. Enough is enough. To defend democracy, we must take back the House by firing Rep. Jay Obernolte and Speaker Mike Johnson."

HER Time, a pro-abortion rights political action committee started by bi former congressmember Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce), also used Johnson's ascension as a fundraising opportunity in an email October 25.

"Mike Johnson is currently the co-sponsor of three bills that would ban abortion nationwide," the email stated. "He writes bills that attack LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms. Don't be fooled just because you've probably never heard of him, he's just as extreme and far-right as they come. We knew the new Speaker of the House would be bad, but this is a WORST CASE SCENARIO."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, sent out an email blast calling attention to vulnerable GOP House members, who the committee stated, "have spent the past week showing Californians exactly who they are — enablers of their party's worst impulses and far-right extremists who want to ban abortion and overturn election results" by voting for Johnson.

These included California Congressmembers David Valadao (R-Hanford), John Duarte (R-Turlock), Ken Calvert (R-Palm Springs), and Young Kim (R-Anaheim). A gay man, Will Rollins (D), is running again against Calvert.

"These GOP shills can speak about moderation until they're blue in the face, but they cave to their MAGA extremist friends almost every time," the email continued.

The Congressional Equality Caucus, comprising 195 LGBTQ or pro-LGBTQ members of the House, issued a statement on X condemning the choice of Johnson.

"He has an extensive record of pushing an extreme anti-equality agenda & under his speakership, attacks against LGBTQI+ people will undoubtedly continue," the X post reads.

The caucus's chair, gay Congressmember Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), stated, "Today, the House had the opportunity to elect a speaker of the House who could lead in a bipartisan manner to move America forward. Instead, extreme MAGA Republicans elected a speaker who has dedicated his career to attacking LGBTQI+ people and pushing an anti-equality agenda. The House has already taken more than 10 anti-equality votes this Congress. By electing Mike Johnson — a vehement opponent of LGBTQI+ equality — as speaker, his supporters have signaled they want these attacks against our community to continue."

The Log Cabin Republicans, a group for LGBTQ Republicans, did not return a request for comment for this report by press time.

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