Speaker Mike Johnson widely condemned for anti-LGBTQ record

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., makes a statement to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., makes a statement to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, is one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress — and his positions on LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, and democracy have drawn significant attention since he was officially elected by his colleagues on Oct. 25.

Johnson’s voting record includes opposing the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act and introducing a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, but his history of opposing LGBTQ rights extends far beyond his time on Capitol Hill.

Now in his fourth term in Congress after a brief stint in the Louisiana State Legislature, Johnson previously worked for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is now known as the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — one of the most prominent legal groups fighting LGBTQ rights across the country.

Johnson, 51, once penned anti-LGBTQ editorials in The Times, a local newspaper in Shreveport, Louisiana, according to CNN. One of Johnson’s editorials slammed the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which deemed many laws against consensual sex unconstitutional. ADF filed an amicus brief on the losing side of that case.

Johnson’s editorial described same-sex sexual activity as “dangerous sexual conduct.”

“Homosexuals do not meet the criteria for a suspect class under the equal protection clause because they are neither disadvantaged nor identified on the basis of immutable characteristics, as all are capable of changing their abnormal lifestyles,” Johnson wrote.

In a separate editorial written in 2004, Johnson likened marriage equality to marrying pets, and he argued “polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”

Johnson’s political extremism has been evident in other areas, too. Aiding President Donald Trump in his quest to overturn the 2020 election, Johnson led an amicus brief to toss votes in four swing states that had backed Joe Biden.

On the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2020, Johnson tweeted: “I have just called President Trump to say this: ‘Stay strong and keep fighting, sir! The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans’ trust in the fairness of our election system.'”

Johnson has also used his role in office to push back against abortion rights on multiple occasions, including with his votes for a national abortion ban and support for other restrictions on the right to choose.

After Johnson became speaker, LGBTQ leaders, elected officials, and groups spoke out against him.

“Today, the House had the opportunity to elect a speaker of the House who could lead in a bipartisan manner to move America forward,” out gay Congressmember Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said on behalf of the Congressional Equality Caucus. “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.”

Allen Morris, the National LGBTQ Task Force’s policy director, said he would be “hard-pressed” to think of a worse speaker, “not simply for LGBTQ communities, but for the American people.”

“Many of my family members have resided in the Fourth Congressional District of Louisiana for decades, so I know from personal experience his track record on civil rights and minority issues is clear and stark as our community continues to find itself under attack,” Morris said in a written statement.

The National Black Justice Coalition, a Black LGBTQ civil rights organization, ripped Johnson’s history of opposition to same-sex marriage and called him out for supporting Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene’s proposal to criminalize gender-affirming care for individuals under the age of 18. David Johns, the organization’s executive director, said Johnson is “an anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ elected leader.”

“In electing Mike Johnson as Speaker, House Republicans have empowered a figure whose far-right ideology, anti-democratic principles, and LGBTQ+ hate have remained relatively under the radar due to inexperience,” Johns said in a written statement. “It is our duty to remind the public that such values are incompatible with the principles of democracy and inclusion.”