As the presiding officer of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House is a powerful position. In addition, the person who holds this role stands second in line to the presidency—or just two heartbeats away from becoming the unelected leader of the free world.
Mike Johnson recently rose from relative obscurity to become Speaker after an unusual turn of events ousted his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, from the position that traditionally was considered safe. What we already know about Johnson on a range of topics and why he shouldn’t be even 100 heartbeats away from the presidency could fill the pages of a scary book.
One area that is particularly disturbing and disqualifying is LGBTQ+ rights. Johnson has expressed his desire for an “honest conversation about homosexuality” because, he insists, “[t]here’s freedom to change if you want to,” according to an audio recording obtained by CNN. Apparently, this was not some singular statement that Johnson can somehow argue was misunderstood or taken out of context. For good measure, he also pointed to “rampant homosexual behavior” deserving some credit for the fall of Rome.
CNN has also confirmed that Johnson was associated with a group, Exodus International, that was not only homophobic but espoused conversion therapy. This group held an event known as The Day of Truth where the goal was to convince young people that counseling and prayer could change their sexual orientation. According to Randy Scobey, a former Exodus executive vice president who is now openly gay and regrets his involvement, Johnson was “quiet, but firm” in his regressive beliefs.
Johnson’s legislative record also displays his extreme views on LGBTQ+ rights. Believing that Democrats are on a “crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” Johnson last year introduced a bill to ban federal funding for any materials that touch on sexual orientation or gender identity to children under age 10. Johnson also voted against the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act and co-sponsored a bill limiting transgender athletes’ choices at federally funded schools.
This summer, just a few months before he became Speaker, Johnson chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on gender-affirming healthcare, claiming coerced children are being “mutilated” by doctors, according to a report from The Hill, which notes that recent polls show that most Americans support LGBTQ+ rights regardless of political affiliation. Despite the reality of what America wants, Johnson remains “a vehement opponent” of LGBTQ+ rights dedicated to “pushing an anti-equality agenda,” according to a statement from the Congressional Equality Caucus. With Johnson as Speaker, it is now even more urgent for Democrats to flip the House in 2024.