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  • Gerald Dryden

Does Speaker Johnson's Election Forewarn Federal Anti-LGBT Legislation?

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

On October 25, 2023, fourth-term Representative of Louisiana Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House.[1] Within three weeks, he laid the groundwork to avoid the feared projected partial government shut down.[2] So why does Johnson consistently score a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard?[3] The answer has long caused controversy: Speaker Johnson is ardently anti-LGBTQ+.[4]


It goes beyond calling homosexuals “deviant,” “sinful,” “morally wrong,” or “dangerous,” (which Johnson has done);[5] Johnson's life work seems to be dedicated to promoting anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs.[6] Before joining Congress, Johnson worked for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a designated hate group dedicated to criminalizing same-sex activity.[7] Among other things, ADF advocates against same-sex marriage, argues in favor of private businesses discriminating against LGBTQ+ people, and asserts that transgender people should not be allowed to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities.[8]


Johnson wrote several works advocating against the LGBTQ+ community.[9] In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court during Lawrence v. Texas (the case that “struck down the nation’s remaining anti-sodomy laws”),[10] Johnson argued to keep same-sex sex sodomy criminalized on the basis that homosexuals would spread more sexually transmitted diseases, thus constituting a “distinct public health problem.”[11] Additionally, he authored two editorials: one explaining the lack of a “right to sodomy in the Constitution,”[12] and the other categorizing gay marriage as a steppingstone to inter-species relationships—suggesting that homosexuality is “inherently unnatural… [and] ultimately harmful and costly for everyone.”[13] In a third op-ed, Johnson outright declared “homosexual marriage [as] the dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.”[14]


In 2015, as a Representative in the House, Johnson introduced the Marriage and Conscience Act which would effectively permit the discrimination of same-sex couples in Louisiana.[15] Recently, he proposed a federal equivalent to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.[16] Speaker Johnson tethers his actions to his religion: “Go pick up a bible,” he maintains. “That’s my world view. That’s what I believe and so I make no apologies for it.”[17]


Yet Johnson claims, in response to “criticism for his previous comments on same-sex marriage,” that he is “a rule of law guy.”[18] The law is the law and he’ll act in accordance, he says, acknowledging the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.[19] How can we square these comments with Johnson’s history?


The LGBTQ+ Community faced a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation these past few years.[20] State legislatures introduced 520 bills and enacted at least 75 this year alone.[21] The Human Rights Campaign placed the community under a state of emergency since June 6, 2023.[22] People may see Speaker Johnson in an optimistic, forward-looking light because of his pragmatic work to avoid a government shutdown. But a look at his past record should leave the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, at a minimum, concerned.



[1] Matt Lavietes, New House Speaker’s Views on LGBTQ Issues Come Under Fresh Scrutiny, NBC Nᴇᴡs (Oct. 26, 2023), https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/mike-johnson-house-speaker-lgbtq-views-scrutiny-rcna122317.

[2] Eric Katz, New House Speaker has a Plan to Avoid a Shutdown—And to Overhaul the Civil Service, Gᴏᴠ'ᴛ Exᴇᴄ. (Oct. 26, 2023), https://www.govexec.com/workforce/2023/10/new-house-speaker-has-plan-avoid-shutdownand-overhaul-civil-service/391542/.

[3] Delphine Luneau, As Extreme as It Gets: Supposed ‘Moderates in GOP Conference Choose as Speaker an Election Denier Who Called LGBTQ+ People a ‘Deviant Group,’ Hᴜᴍ. Rᴛs. Cᴀᴍᴘᴀɪɢɴ (Oct. 25, 2023), https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/as-extreme-as-it-gets-supposed-moderates-in-gop-conference-choose-as-speaker-an-election-denier-who-called-lgbtq-people-a-deviant-group (“Johnson has earned nothing but zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which rates lawmakers on how they vote on bills of importance to the LGBTQ+ community.”).

[4] Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, I’ve picked Up Plenty of Bibles, Mike Jonson. I Didn’t See Your Hate Anywhere, MSNBC (Oct. 28, 2023), https://www.msnbc.com/opinion/msnbc-opinion/mike-johnson-lgbtq-rcna122550.

[5] Id.

[6] Lavietes, supra note 1.

[7] Alliance Defending Freedom, Sᴏᴜᴛʜᴇʀɴ Pᴏᴠᴇʀᴛʏ L. Cᴛʀ. (2023), https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/alliance-defending-freedom.

[8] Id.

[9] Lavietes, supra note 1; see also Katz, supra note 2; Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.

[10] Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.

[11] Lavietes, supra note 1.

[12] Mike Johnson, Justices Take Swipe at American Values, Tʜᴇ Tɪᴍᴇs, Jul. 8, 2003, at 7, available at https://www.newspapers.com/image/219932335/?fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjIxOTkzMjMzNSwiaWF0IjoxNjk5NjQ4MzAwLCJleHAiOjE2OTk3MzQ3MDB9.k7S4zbFpTLcKSVmNPP_frLk8i9cfO-BsN0qN5-_yGNw.

[13] Mike Johnson, Marriage Amendment Deserves Strong Support, Tʜᴇ Tɪᴍᴇs, Sept. 12, 2004, at 113, available at https://www.newspapers.com/image/220164426/?clipping_id=134019997&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjIyMDE2NDQyNiwiaWF0IjoxNjk5NjQ4NTg2LCJleHAiOjE2OTk3MzQ5ODZ9.JJBENAAOHhDv_AV9u8q4ZL1jgmRdFRgHCVmYcpGXrZU.

[14] Mike Johnson, Same-Sex Marriage Must Be Opposed, Tʜᴇ Tɪᴍᴇs, Feb. 22, 2004, at 91, available at https://www.newspapers.com/image/219973619/?clipping_id=134049583&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjIxOTk3MzYxOSwiaWF0IjoxNjk5NjQ4NzE0LCJleHAiOjE2OTk3MzUxMTR9.wVLaCbHQQpyOeqsi1AQNz81IPKlsznRfu094xjgJIVc.

[15] Brian Slodysko, House Speaker Mike Johnson was once the dean of a Christian law school. It never opened its doors., Assᴏᴄ. Pʀᴇss (Oct. 31, 2023), https://apnews.com/article/mike-johnson-house-speaker-2d1a3399e8fe61bf0619d66ba29a1520 (“The Marriage and Conscience Act . . . would have effectively blocked Louisiana from punishing [businesses] who discriminated against gay couples, so long as it was for religious reasons—similar to arguments invoked during the Civil Rights era against interracial marriage. The bill was rejected.”).

[16] Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.

[17] Lauren Irwin, Speaker Johnson on Same-Sex Marriage: ‘I Am a Rule of Law Guy,’ Tʜᴇ Hɪʟʟ (Oct. 26, 2023), https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4278796-speaker-johnson-on-same-sex-marriage-i-am-a-rule-of-law-guy/.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Cullen Peele, Roundup of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation Advances in States Across the Country, Hᴜᴍ. Rᴛs. Cᴀᴍᴘᴀɪɢɴ (May 23, 2023), https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/roundup-of-anti-lgbtq-legislation-advancing-in-states-across-the-country.

[21] Id.

[22] Holly Yan, Human Rights Campaign declares national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people, CNN (June 6, 2023), https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/06/us/hrc-lgbtq-emergency-declared/index.html.


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