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What Louisianans Want You to Know About Anti-LGBTQ+ House Speaker Mike Johnson

Author: Trudy Ring

In the past couple of days, most of America has been learning what an extremist new U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson is — anti-LGBTQ+, anti-reproductive freedom, pro-gun. But some political observers in the Republican’s home state of Louisiana have known about him for a while.

Speaker Mike Johnson’s Views Are Far-Right

His stances are far to the right, but he tends to state them in a reasonable-sounding, legalistic way, says Stephanie Grace, a political columnist for Louisiana newspapers The Times-Picayune and The Advocate (no relation to this publication).

“He doesn’t have the Jim Jordan confrontational demeanor, but his positions are pretty extreme,” she says, referring to the Ohio congressman who failed in his bid to be speaker.

Johnson is amiable and engages with people who disagree with him, Grace notes. “When he talks about these issues, he tends to do it in a very legalistic way,” as he’s trained in constitutional law, she says, adding, “He has this way where he doesn’t come across as very frightening to people” — which may make him all the more frightening to those threatened by his positions.

Before entering politics, Johnson was an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to promoting causes championed by the religious right, especially opposition to LGBTQ+ equality and abortion rights. He wrote editorials for Louisiana papers arguing against marriage equality and for the criminalization of gay sex. He has referred to LGBTQ+ people as “deviant” and worse. He once called same-sex marriage “the dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.”

He is in his fourth term representing a northwestern Louisiana district in the U.S. House, and before that spent one term in the Louisiana House. In 2015, in the state body, he made a splash by introducing a “license to discriminate” bill, allowing denial of goods and services to same-sex couples by businesses and professionals with religious objections.

Louisiana’s governor at the time, Republican Bobby Jindal, “really seized onto this bill,” Grace recalls. “It got to be very prominent very quickly.” Jindal was then seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

However, the bill didn’t pass. “Even a conservative legislature was not willing to go that far,” Grace says.

He Continues to Go After LGBTQ+ Rights in the House

In Congress, Johnson has quietly polished his anti-LGBTQ+ credibility by introducing an education bill modeled on Florida’s “don’t say gay” law, which went nowhere, and led a hearing on the possibility of banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors.

“He’s been building a résumé of hate against LGBTQ people,” says David Armstead, a Louisiana resident who’s on the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors. Johnson’s elevation to speaker shows that Republicans are now “saying the quiet part out loud,” Armstead adds.

On other issues, Johnson’s positions are just as extreme. He has also proposed nationwide restrictions on abortion, even using the argument that access to the procedure was robbing the economy of “able-bodied workers.” He’s also said doctors who perform abortions should be punished by having to do “hard labor.”

He has opposed legislation to make it harder to obtain guns and, indeed, proposed loosening gun regulations. After the mass shooting in Maine this week, he offered only prayers, saying, “Prayer is appropriate in a time like this, that the evil can end and this senseless violence can stop.”

He’s a staunch ally of Donald Trump and was part of Trump’s impeachment defense team. He played a key role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. “He doesn’t care about the republic because he was on the side of the insurrectionists,” Armstead observes.

It’s open to question how well his extreme positions will play as speaker, Grace says. While the speaker promotes the majority party’s agenda, he or she must also be pragmatic and work with the other party to get legislation passed. In addition, Johnson is less experienced than many speakers have been.

It’s further open to question how his elevation to a leadership role will play in swing districts. “Do Republicans in Biden districts know what they’ve attached themselves to?” Grace asks.

LGBTQ+ organizations and others are trying to get the word out about Johnson, Armstead says. Ahead of the 2024 election, HRC and similarly progressive groups are registering voters and starting get-out-the-vote efforts — and making sure citizens know about the records of Johnson and other far-right pols, he says.

“When we look at people like Mike Johnson, we have to remember that these are people who are really harmful to us,” Armstead says.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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