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U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson — Photo by Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson — Photo by Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters

Newly elected House speaker's anti-Queer record scrutinized
Following the protracted fight over the position, newly elected US House Speaker Mike Johnson's decades-long political and legislative records call attention to his extreme history of anti-Queer statements, legislation, and litigation.

The Queer rights group Human Rights Campaign calls him "the most anti-equality speaker in US history." Now in his fourth term representing Louisiana's Fourth Congressional District, he has received a zero on the HRC's Congressional Scorecard in every term. He voted against the Equality Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, and numerous other pro-equality bills. He has introduced legislation inspired by Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law and led a hearing in opposition to gender-affirming care for minors.

Before his tenure in the House, Johnson worked as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group promoting what it calls "religious freedom," in actuality vehemently anti-Queer rights laws and policies.

While at the ADF in 2006, he touted the so-called Day of Truth, the far right's response to the Day of Silence, which is a protest against bullying of Queer youth. The Day of Truth, he said, is "another perspective on the homosexual lifestyle, which many people believe is morally wrong and physically dangerous."

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

"He doesn't have the Jim Jordan confrontational demeanor, but his positions are pretty extreme," she said, referring to the Ohio congressman who failed in his bid to be speaker. She added, "He has this way where he doesn't come across as very frightening to people."

In an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity on October 26, Johnson explained his religious views: "I am a Bible-believing Christian. Someone asked me today — in the media, they said, 'It's curious, people are curious. What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?' I said, 'Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That's my worldview.'"

In a statement, Allen Morris, policy director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, explained the context of Johnson's views in relation to the Queer community. "I would be hard-pressed to think of a worse member to be elected speaker of the House, not simply for LGBTQ communities but for the American people."

He added, "Many of my family members have resided in the Fourth Congressional District of Louisiana for decades, so I know from personal experience his track record on civil rights and minority issues is clear and stark as our community continues to find itself under attack."

Judge Dianne Hensley — Photo courtesy of First Liberty  

Texas Supreme Court to hear case of state judge who refuses to marry same-sex couples
The county justice of the peace who was formally reprimanded after she refused to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples took her case to the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Judge Dianne Hensley serves as justice of the peace in McLennan County in central Texas, and part of her duties can include performing marriage ceremonies.

Beginning in 2015, she stopped officiating weddings altogether for a time, as she said performing same-sex ceremonies would be incompatible with her Christian beliefs, according to the Texas Tribune.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a formal reprimand to Hensley in 2019 for her practice of marrying opposite-sex couples while refusing to marry same-sex couples. Hensley did not appeal the warning but instead challenged the commission in a Texas court.

Hensley argued that the commission violated the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) by warning Hensley to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples even though such a practice violated her religious beliefs. The lower courts threw out the case, finding that the commission did not exceed its authority or violate Hensley's religious rights.

The fact the Texas Supreme Court has taken the case, as well as the lines of questioning in yesterday's hearing, has led some to believe the court might be willing to revive the case for Hensley. The judges repeatedly peppered counsel for the commission, Douglas S. Lang, with hypothetical questions that seemed to question why a judge could decline to perform ceremonies in some situations without question but Hensley was being punished for a similar refusal.

The court did not indicate when it would rule in the case.