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Johnson’s anti-LGBTQ record generates concern over his speakership

By Jake Beardslee · November 3, 2023

In brief…

  • Johnson has faced criticism over his record opposing same-sex marriage and transgender rights
  • As Speaker, he may advance Marjorie Taylor Greene's bill criminalizing transgender youth healthcare
  • Some Democrats hope he'll moderate, but LGBTQ advocates are skeptical given his history
  • Most Americans support LGBTQ rights, so his views are out of step with public opinion
The unanimous election of Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker has prompted criticism from LGBTQ advocates.  Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia

Since his unanimous election as Speaker of the House last week, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) has faced criticism from LGBTQ advocates over his conservative record on same-sex marriage and transgender rights. As a former attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Johnson authored articles advocating for banning gay sex and suggesting legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to marrying pets. In Congress since 2016, Johnson voted against the Respect for Marriage Act and Equality Act, and introduced a bill to bar federal funds from providing “sexually-oriented” materials about sexual orientation or gender identity to children.

Last year, Johnson called this measure necessary to stop a Democratic “crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology.” In March, Johnson helped pass a bill barring transgender athletes from federally funded women’s and girls’ sports teams. In July, a House subcommittee chaired by Johnson held a hearing portraying gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth as dangerous. Johnson claimed children are “coerced” into being transgender and then “mutilated” by doctors.

Johnson has sought to fully ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors, co-sponsoring Marjorie Taylor Greene’s bill making it a felony. The bill would also restrict transgender adult care by prohibiting federal funds being used. While McCarthy and other Speaker candidates have criticized youth transgender healthcare access, none co-sponsored Greene’s bill, potentially signaling Johnson may bring it to the floor as Speaker.

Some Democrats like Reps. Mark Pocan and Angie Craig have expressed hope Johnson may moderate his views over time. But LGBTQ advocates like Shannon Minter believe Johnson is unlikely to suddenly change his longtime anti-LGBTQ stances and actions. Most Americans support LGBTQ rights and protections. But Minter said, “We better be ready for the worst and hope that’s not what happens.”