Mike Johnson finally got the votes on Wednesday afternoon to fill an embarrassing three-week vacancy in the House speakership.
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle touted Speaker Johnson as a low-key and quiet lawmaker, a long history of homophobia has already begun to surface from the Louisiana Republican’s past.
But the bread crumbs of Johnson’s homophobia go much deeper than had previously been reported. The New Republic has learned that as early as 2003, Johnson was attacking LGBTQ rights and individuals. At the time, Johnson was a key advocate against marriage equality as a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group.
In 2004, Johnson defended Louisiana’s proposed statewide ban on same-sex marriage in the courts—and went as far as to use a derogatory term for opposing counsel. Johnson directly called John Rawls, an attorney advocating for marriage equality, a “homosexual” while awaiting a court decision on the ban. Rawls was so upset by Johnson’s remark, he charged the future House speaker, according to reporting in the Times Picayune. “I am not a homosexual,” Rawls angrily told Johnson. “I am a gay man.… No one calls me the ‘h’ word.”
The following year, in 2005, Johnson defended a so-called “Day of Truth,” in which far-right Christian organizations organized students to protest same-sex marriage as an attack on religious liberty. At Harvard, pamphlets were handed out decrying gay love as sinful and evil. “If the other side is going to advance their point of view, it’s only fair for the Christian perspective to present their view, too,” Johnson told The Harvard Crimson.
“You can call it sinful or destructive—ultimately it’s both,” he told NBC News of same-sex relationships.
A decade later, in 2014, Johnson (who calls Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett a friend) was again defending another statewide ban on gay marriage in Lousiana before the courts. In a 2020 interview with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, Johnson argued (unsuccessfully) that the issue of marriage equality is one of states’ rights.
It has yet to be seen if curbing LGBTQ rights will be part of Johnson’s governing agenda as House speaker. So far, marriage equality has flown under the radar in the current Congress. And for his part, Johnson isn’t taking questions from the press.
As speaker designate, Johnson declined to take questions Tuesday night about his role in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. After being elected speaker on Wednesday afternoon, Johnson held a press conference on the House steps, during which he answered no questions from reporters.
During the vote that elected Johnson as speaker, Representative Angie Craig had a special message for her partner as she voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
“Happy anniversary to my wife,” said Craig, drawing a standing ovation from Democrats, ostensibly as a jab at Johnson’s long history as a career homophobe. Only Representative Matt Gaetz stood and applauded on the Republican side of the aisle.