Mike Johnson, in black and white, against a faded LGBTQ progress flag

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Mainstream media should report on new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson’s extensive history of anti-LGBTQ extremism

Johnson has deep ties to anti-LGBTQ groups such as ADF and FRC and has repeatedly argued against marriage equality

Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) has a decades long record of working with extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations, championing anti-LGBTQ legal efforts, and sponsoring regressive anti-LGBTQ laws. While mainstream media have focused on Johnson’s role in promoting former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, their coverage has left out vital context on the new speaker’s history of opposing LGBTQ rights and freedoms.

  • From 2002 to 2010, Johnson served as an attorney for the extreme anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom and was involved in its anti-LGBTQ litigation

    • The ADF (previously Alliance Defense Fund) is an extreme anti-LGBTQ group that champions right-wing causes under the guise of religious liberty. ADF’s “powerful global network” of over 3,000 “allied attorneys” have often taken up government positions — over 100 elected officials across local, state, and federal governments have connections to the group. ADF has historically supported the criminalization of sodomy, and the group was involved in cases that overturned Roe v. Wade and ruled in favor of discriminating against LGBTQ couples and individuals. [Media Matters, 7/26/18, 5/20/19; ADF, 5/3/23 7/3/23; Time magazine, 7/16/23]
    • Johnson served as a senior attorney, national media spokesman, and allied attorney for ADF for nearly a decade. According to an old biography on ADF’s website, he “served as senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom from 2002 to 2010.” Johnson continued his work with ADF after 2010, acting as an allied attorney in at least one case. [ADF, 5/11/11, accessed 8/21/16; LGBTQ Nation, 10/25/23]
    • While at ADF, Johnson repeatedly argued against a New Orleans effort to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of municipal employees. Johnson defended his challenge to equal rights for same-sex couples by stating, “When you tear down the taboos, the doors open up for everything.” He added, “We are not trying to tie homosexuality to pedophilia, but when you tear down one barrier, others fall.” [ADF, 2014, accessed 10/25/23; Lambda Legal, 1/21/09; The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, 12/1/03; Philadelphia Gay News, 1/29/09]
    • After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy law in 2003, Johnson penned an editorial for a Louisiana newspaper claiming, “By closing these bedroom doors, they have opened a Pandora’s box.” Johnson, who was an attorney for ADF at the time, further claimed that “states have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse, including concerns for public health.” [CNN, 10/25/23; The (Shreveport) Times, 7/8/03]
    • While at ADF, Johnson published additional columns calling homosexuality “inherently unnatural,” a “dangerous lifestyle,” and a “bizarre choice,” while also claiming that marriage equality is a “dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.” In an editorial in support of a Louisiana amendment banning marriage equality, Johnson argued it could lead to people marrying their pets: “If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection. They already are. There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex, or a person to marry his pet.” [CNN, 10/25/23; The (Shreveport) Times, 2/22/04, 9/12/04, 7/20/05]
    • Johnson also championed ADF’s “Day of Truth” event for students who believe that LGBTQ identities are “sinful.” Johnson was quoted saying of homosexuality, “You can call it sinful or destructive — ultimately it's both.” He also said the event was an effort to “present a counter or Christian perspective” to the National Day of Silence, an event The New York Times wrote had been “sponsored for nine years by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to protest discrimination in schools.” [NBC News, 4/12/05; The New York Times, 6/9/05]
    • In 2004, Johnson defended Louisiana’s amendment banning marriage equality in front of the state’s Supreme Court. The stated intention of the law was to ensure that marriage consisted of only “the union of one man and one woman.” Johnson was involved in cases relating to the amendment until at least 2015. [Louisiana State Legislature, accessed 10/25/23; PinkNews, 10/25/23; Gulf Live, 1/9/15; Robicheaux v. Caldwell, 7/1/15; Costanza v. Caldwell, 7/7/15; 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, 9/25/14, 9/25/14]
  • Johnson has also been a mainstay of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council, repeatedly appearing on the group’s radio show

    • The Family Research Council has championed a number of anti-LGBTQ legislative efforts at home and abroad, with FRC President Tony Perkins even supporting Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill. FRC has repeatedly leveraged its connections in Congress to advance legislation curtailing the rights of LGBTQ couples to foster children and limiting the availability of gender-affirming care. [Media Matters, 5/17/18, 11/11/19, 3/12/19
    • For years, Johnson has also supported FRC’s anti-abortion work. In 2012, Johnson and Liberty Institute represented FRC in challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers cover contraceptive care and abortions. In March 2020, Johnson co-wrote an op-ed for the FRC with Perkins arguing that “the abortion industry” was “getting a free pass” and the Supreme Court should intervene. [FRC, 3/3/20, accessed 10/26/23; PR Newswire, 10/23/12]
    • Johnson has attended and featured as a speaker at FRC events. In 2023, Johnson spoke at FRC’s “Pray Vote Stand” Summit, which aimed to mobilize “Christians across America to preserve and defend the nation’s bedrock values,” and featuring Trump and other GOP presidential candidates. He spoke at the same event at least one other time, in 2020, as well as at FRC’s “Arise & Stand” pro-Trump fundraiser. [National Religious Broadcasters, accessed 10/26/23; Business Insider, 9/18/20; Right Wing Watch, 6/30/20
    • FRC has repeatedly celebrated Johnson for his “unwavering commitment and consistent support of faith, family, and freedom.” In 2005, Johnson received FRC’s “Family, Faith, and Freedom” award, in part for his work “upholding the Louisiana Marriage Protection Amendment.” Perkins praised Johnson, saying he has “championed the family and honored its Divine Maker with personal and professional distinction.” FRC also praised Johnson in 2018, giving him a perfect 100% on FRC Action's legislative scorecard and presenting FRC Action's “True Blue” award. [ADF, 3/17/05; PR Newswire, 12/10/16; U.S. Congressman Mike Johnson, 3/5/18]
    • Johnson has appeared on FRC’s Washington Watch dozens of times since at least 2015, and he even guest-hosted the program. Johnson has appeared at least 7 times so far in 2023 discussing legislative priorities, bills, and congressional hearings, and pushing false claims of big tech censorship of conservatives. Throughout 2019, Johnson discussed the Mueller investigation into Trump. [FRC, Washington Watch, 9/4/15, 1//30/19, 12/14/18, 3/6/19, 6/26/19, 7/24/19, 9/12/19]  
    • In July, Johnson discussed the congressional hearing on youth gender transition with Washington Watch, calling gender-affirming care “a terrible experiment.” Johnson also claimed that minors are receiving gender-affirming care “very often at times without parental consent.” [FRC, Washington Watch, 7/27/23]
  • Beyond his time with ADF, Johnson supported anti-LGBTQ legal challenges

    • In a 2014 op-ed for Louisiana conservative outlet The Hayride, Johnson argued that judges were attemping to “impose” marriage equality “by fiat.” He continued to argue that any legal judgement in support of same-sex marriage went against “the clear will of the people, who have voted in overwhelming majorities in most of those states to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” [The Hayride, 6/26/14]
    • Johnson represented the state of Louisiana in two separate 2014 Supreme Court cases where he argued in defense of state constitutions banning marriage equality. Johnson contributed to an amicus brief defending Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and he defended Louisiana’s own ban in Robicheaux v. Caldwell. [De Leon v. Perry, 9/16/14, Robicheaux v. Caldwell, 12/2/14]
    • In 2015, Johnson also founded Freedom Guard, a “non-profit legal ministry” that “works to defend religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, marriage and the family.” Johnson hosted a series of traveling seminars where he “informed pastors and church leaders how to update their bylaws and policies to provide the greatest legal protections possible against the impending challenges to their rights of conscience and their biblically-based opposition to new mandates like same-sex marriage.” [The Message, 10/25/23; The Bridge, August 2015; The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, 1/12/15]
    • After the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges codifying marriage equality nationwide, Johnson issued a memo through Freedom Guard offering free legal services to government officials who objected to the ruling. The memo, which Johnson issued in 2015, was directed to government officials who feared they would “compromise their faith by issuing marriage licenses or solemnizing marriages under circumstances that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs” in the wake of Obergefell. [Freedom Guard, 7/28/15]
    • In 2022, Johnson, now a member of Congress, submitted an amicus brief in support of a web designer who petitioned the Supreme Court to allow her to refuse service to LGBTQ couples on the basis of her religious objections. Johnson also spoke at a rally organized by ADF outside the Supreme Court, where he argued that the case would “force” Americans to act contrary to their “sincerely held religious beliefs and right of conscience.” [NRB, 12/8/22; Instagram, 12/5/22; 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 10/28/21]
  • Johnson has advocated for anti-LGBTQ legislation at both the state and federal level

    • In 2015, Johnson introduced anti-LGBTQ legislation as a member of the Louisiana legislature. [The Hill, 10/24/23
    • In 2019, while serving in the House as chair of the Republican Study Committee, Johnson created and circulated a flier urging House Republicans to pressure Amazon to lift its ban on books promoting discredited and dangerous anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy. The flier equated Amazon’s ban to “choosing to censor speech” and claimed that the removal of the books from the Amazon store was done so “without regard for the rights of anyone who chooses to not support” the LGBTQ community. [Vice News, 7/19/19]
    • In 2022,Johnson introduced anti-LGBTQ legislation as a member of the House. The Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022 was co-sponsored by 32 other Republicans and was modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation to prohibit “discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as related subjects, at any institution that received federal funds.” [Louisiana Illuminator, 10/25/23; The Washington Post, 10/25/23]