New House speaker nominee Mike Johnson is an anti-LGBTQ+ extremist who once worked for a hate group

Rep. Mike Johnson
Rep. Mike Johnson Photo: U.S. House

Since ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) earlier this month, House Republicans have struggled to find a replacement. So far, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Tom Emmer (R-MN) have all proven unable to obtain the 217 votes necessary to secure a majority, leaving the House essentially paralyzed.

On Tuesday night, House Republicans chose their fourth nominee for Speaker, after Emmer dropped out of the race mere hours after he was nominated due to far-right backlash. Next up in this embarrassingly protracted process is Rep Mike Johnson (R-LA), who the New York Times describes as a little-known hard-line social conservative.

When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, that may be a bit of an understatement.

Prior to serving in the Louisiana House of Representatives from February 2015 to January 2017, Johnson was a senior attorney and national media spokesman for anti-LGBTQ+ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (then called the Alliance Defense Fund). As noted by blogger Joe Jervis, in that role Johnson filed lawsuits challenging the rights to same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption, and same-sex marital benefits. In 2005, the group led a campaign against GLSEN’s annual anti-bullying Day of Silence.

“No one is for bullying and harassment,” Johnson told NBC News at the time. “But that’s cloaking their real message — that homosexuality is good for society.”

Shortly after joining the Louisiana legislature, Johnson introduced a so-called “religious freedom” bill that would have essentially legalized discrimination against married same-sex couples. In 2016, he proposed legislation that would allow Louisiana churches and clergy members to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

During his 2016 run for U.S. Congress, Johnson said that he was “called to legal ministry,” telling the Baptist Message that he had been “on the front lines of the ‘culture war’ defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and biblical values, including the defense of traditional marriage.”

More recently, Johnson introduced a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law last December. The “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act” would cut federal funding to libraries, school districts, hospitals, government entities, or other organizations for “hosting or promoting any program, event, or literature involving sexually-oriented material.” It defines “sexually-oriented material” as “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related topics.”

In June of this year, Johnson posted a since-deleted tweet falsely claiming that President Joe Biden had broken federal law by displaying the Progress Pride flag outside the White House.

During a July hearing on transgender youth by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, Johnson, the committee’s chair, said that parents do not have the right to provide their children with access to gender-affirming healthcare. He falsely characterized such care, which every major American medical association has endorsed, as “abuse and physical harm.”

On Tuesday night, the Times reported that Johnson appeared to be closer than any of the three previous nominees to becoming Speaker of the House, having built a coalition of Republicans that includes such far-right holdouts as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).

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