Meet the Uniformly Anti-LGBT House Leadership Candidates
By Trudy Ring
House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t been any friend to LGBT Americans, but the Ohio Republican’s successor is likely to be just as bad or worse.
Boehner, who’s leaving the speaker’s position — and Congress altogether — at the end of October, was considered too moderate by his party’s far right wing, but he was in tune with that faction on LGBT issues. He refused to bring employment nondiscrimination legislation to a vote — he deemed such a law “unnecessary” — and he and other Republican congressional leaders hired a private lawyer to defend the now-defunct Defense of Marriage Act after the Obama administration refused to do so.
The speakership is a pivotal position. The speaker generally does not vote on or sponsor legislation but does set the agenda for each congressional session. He — and with the exception of Nancy Pelosi, it’s always been a he — is the leader of the House and of the majority party. The speaker is also second in line (after the vice president) to succeed the president if the president should die or become unable to perform the duties of the office. The next most powerful position in the House is that of majority leader, who is the primary representative of the majority party on the House floor, controls the schedule, and is a key fundraiser for the party.
The potential replacements for Boehner are all male, white, and conservative. (One woman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was mentioned as a candidate but declined to run.) The Republicans are scheduled to choose their speaker candidate Thursday, then present him to the full House at the end of the month. Here’s a look at the LGBT-related records of the top candidates to replace Boehner — and to replace current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the front-runner for the speakership.
House conservatives like McCarthy “both for his willingness to bend to their will and for his cheerful manner,” The New York Times notes. McCarthy, who announced his run for the speakership last week, is in his fourth term in the House, representing a district centered on Bakersfield, Calif., one of the deep blue state’s more conservative areas. He has generally been circumspect in discussing LGBT issues — no Louie Gohmert-style outbursts — but his voting record tells where he stands: a solid zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office in 2007. He has also supported far-right groups, and his wife, Judy, has claimed her “right to be a Christian” is under attack.
On marriage equality: “I personally support marriage between a man and a woman.”
On LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law: “In general, hate crimes legislation … seeks to establish new offenses and special penalties for crimes motivated because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender. Such legislation has the potential to further perpetuate various racial, religious, and other social tensions, because of the perception of unequal punishment for committing the same crime. I believe we ought to punish all violent crime the same way, in a swift, tough and harsh manner.”
Jason Chaffetz, who announced his bid for speaker over the weekend, has an ideologically diverse background that hasn’t kept him from compiling a solid antigay record. The four-term Utah representative was brought up Jewish but converted to the Mormon faith while a student at Brigham Young University, where he played on the football team. He is also a former Democrat who converted to the Republican Party. He cochaired the Utah branch of Democrat Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988, and he has another tie to Dukakis, whose wife, Kitty, was once Chaffetz’s stepmother, as she was married to his father, John, before she wed Dukakis. John Chaffetz, by the way, authored a book titled Gay Reality: The Team Guido Story, a positive account of a gay couple who competed on The Amazing Race. Jason, who says getting to know former President Ronald Reagan led him to join the Republican Party, has taken pains to emphasize that he’s his “own guy.” He’s deeply conservative, and he made headlines recently for challenging Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards with a chart that he claimed came from her organization but was actually from an anti-abortion group. He’s been a staunch opponent of marriage equality; among other things, in 2010 he introduced a bill to block the District of Columbia’s marriage equality law from going into effect, as Congress has some oversight of D.C. The bill failed. The “Social Issues” section of his official House website apparently has not been updated for some time; it touts his support for Utah’s anti–marriage equality law and the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which have been consigned to the dustbin of history.
On marriage equality: “I’m not trying to attack gay marriage per se. I’m just trying to affirm my positive view that I believe in traditional marriage."
Webster, a second-term House member from Florida, was the first to announce his run for speaker — the same day that Boehner resigned. A former speaker of the Florida House, he is a favorite of the far right, but he got just 12 votes when he abruptly challenged Boehner for the speakership back in January. He has a zero from HRC in his service in Congress to date. In 2013 he read a statement in Congress supporting the anti–marriage equality March for Marriage, and he supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He has often aligned himself with antigay groups, including some tied to the disgraced Duggar family. Last year, in a House committee, he helped kill a last-minute attempt to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote before Congress adjourned. And he opposed repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” During his first run for the U.S. House, in 2010 against outspoken liberal Democrat Alan Grayson, Grayson ran an ad calling Webster “Taliban Dan.” Webster won nonetheless; Grayson now is back in the House representing a different district.
On marriage equality: “The institution of marriage is worth protecting through the Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage is the sacred union between a man and a woman.”
The Wisconsin congressman and former vice-presidential candidate says he doesn’t want the speakership, but some conservatives would love to see him go for it. Ryan has a largely anti-LGBT record: He voted twice to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, voted against LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes legislation, voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and voted to ban adoption by same-sex couples in the District of Columbia, over which Congress exerts control. An exception to his general record: In 2007 he voted for a version of ENDA that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.
On marriage equality: “Marriage is not simply a legal arrangement between individuals. The institution of marriage is an integral part of our civil society and its significance goes well beyond eligibility for benefits and similar considerations. Its future should not be left to a few overreaching judges or local officials to decide.”
On the DADT repeal: “I talked to a lot of good friends of mine who are combat leaders in the theater, and they just didn’t think the timing of this was right to do this when our troops were in the middle of harm’s way in combat.” However, after the repeal, Ryan conceded that it was a done deal and there was no point in trying to reverse it.
Scalise, a Louisiana rep who’s currently the House majority whip, one step below majority leader, is a possibility to move into the majority leader position or even the speakership. He is one of the most conservative members of Congress. As a state legislator, he authored Louisiana’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and in the U.S. House, where he’s served since 2009, he’s cosponsored a similar federal amendment. He was quick to sign on as a cosponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would carve out a broad exemption to antidiscrimination law for businesses, individuals, and organizations with faith-based objections to same-sex marriage. This year he addressed the Watchmen on the Wall Summit, an event sponsored by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council. He’s also gotten in trouble for addressing a white supremacist group connected to the infamous Louisiana politician David Duke back in 2002; he’s said he doesn’t share the group’s racist views but has called himself “David Duke without the baggage,” according to a Louisiana journalist.
On the First Amendment Defense Act: “Religious freedom is a fundamental right established in the Constitution. Especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent judicial activism, defending religious liberty has become an even more pressing priority.”
On the 2013 Supreme Court ruling gutting DOMA: “[It’s] a sad day when the same court that upheld Obamacare decides to reverse course on thousands of years of tradition and a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. This Supreme Court ruling marks a low point in judicial activism where unelected judges turned against traditional marriage, which has been a hallmark of American society since our nation’s founding.”
Price, a potential majority leader or speaker, is an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia. He has been in the House since 2005 and before that served four terms in the Georgia State Senate. He hits all the anti-LGBT bases: opposed to marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination law, LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law, on and on. He also has spoken of the need to consider “the consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm” — that came up in a conference call with other right-wingers, one of whom said legislation advancing the “homosexual agenda” might drive up public health costs.
On the 2015 marriage equality ruling: “This is not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances.”
On hate-crimes legislation: “The inclusion of ‘thought crimes’ legislation in what is otherwise a bipartisan bill for troop funding is an absolute disgrace.” (The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which passed in 2009, was attached to a defense spending bill.)
Jordan, an Ohioan, is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of ultraconservative Republicans. He’s been in the news this week for his questioning — some have called it “badgering” — of Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards. This potential speaker is not only deeply opposed to abortion rights but has solid anti-LGBT credentials as well. He has opposed LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes law, although he once tried to add “the unborn” to such legislation. He led the ultimately unsuccessful fight to block Washington, D.C.’s marriage equality law, enacted in 2010, earning himself a place in the HRC’s Hall of Shame. He opposed repeal of DADT and, unlike Paul Ryan, has expressed support for reinstating it. He is a cosponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act.
On the 2015 marriage equality ruling: “In today’s ruling, five judges overturned the sound public policy that was democratically enacted by millions of Americans in states across the country, including Ohio. This ruling follows what seems to be a recent trend on the Supreme Court: rulings based on the desires of the justices, and not the letter of the law and the framework of the Constitution. I am also concerned that this ruling opens the door for discrimination against those who believe in traditional marriage, and I believe Congress must work to ensure that no American is forced to violate their beliefs on this important issue.”
On hate-crimes legislation: “This so-called hate crimes bill not only discards the fundamental American legal principle of equal justice, it also lays the groundwork to criminalize individuals and groups that might not share the liberal values of places like San Francisco.” (In a 2007 debate on an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes bill, he noted that a San Francisco city resolution denounced the local Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to adoption by gays and lesbians.)
Some who are unenthused about Scalise or Price as majority leader have encouraged this South Carolina rep to run for the position — apparently, even John Boehner approached him about it. Although Gowdy has reportedly said he’s not interested, his backers may not give up. Reports have even surfaced that he’s retiring from Congress at the end of this term —his third — but his aides aren’t confirming them. His major focus is leading the committee investigating the deaths of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, but he’s taken time to compile an anti-LGBT record too, racking up zeroes from the HRC. In a 2011 exchange with Attorney General Eric Holder, Gowdy asked why laws barring same-sex couples from marrying should be held to a higher level of judicial scrutiny than those banning incest or polygamy. He denounced the decision by Holder and President Obama to cease defending DOMA; because of this, he backed a (failed) bill to make it easier for Congress to sue presidents for not enforcing laws.