Does Speaker Johnson's Election Forewarn Federal Anti-LGBT Legislation?
Updated: Nov 17
On October 25, 2023, fourth-term Representative of Louisiana Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House. Within three weeks, he laid the groundwork to avoid the feared projected partial government shut down. So why does Johnson consistently score a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard? The answer has long caused controversy: Speaker Johnson is ardently anti-LGBTQ+.
It goes beyond calling homosexuals “deviant,” “sinful,” “morally wrong,” or “dangerous,” (which Johnson has done); Johnson's life work seems to be dedicated to promoting anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. Before joining Congress, Johnson worked for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a designated hate group dedicated to criminalizing same-sex activity. 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.
Johnson wrote several works advocating against the LGBTQ+ community. In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court during Lawrence v. Texas (the case that “struck down the nation’s remaining anti-sodomy laws”), 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.” Additionally, he authored two editorials: one explaining the lack of a “right to sodomy in the Constitution,” 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.” 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.”
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. Recently, he proposed a federal equivalent to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 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.”
Yet Johnson claims, in response to “criticism for his previous comments on same-sex marriage,” that he is “a rule of law guy.” 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. 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. State legislatures introduced 520 bills and enacted at least 75 this year alone. The Human Rights Campaign placed the community under a state of emergency since June 6, 2023. 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.
 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.
 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/.
 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.”).
 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.
 Lavietes, supra note 1.
 Alliance Defending Freedom, Sᴏᴜᴛʜᴇʀɴ Pᴏᴠᴇʀᴛʏ L. Cᴛʀ. (2023), https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/alliance-defending-freedom.
 Lavietes, supra note 1; see also Katz, supra note 2; Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.
 Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.
 Lavietes, supra note 1.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.”).
 Graves-Fitzsimmons, supra note 4.
 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/.
 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.
 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.