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Who Is Acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry and How Antigay Is He?

Who Is Acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry and How Antigay Is He?

Patrick McHenry

McHenry's anti-LGBTQ+ record is long and strong, even though an antigay activist once claimed McHenry was gay.

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Patrick McHenry, the acting speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has an extensive anti-LGBTQ+ and otherwise far-right record that earned him honors from the Family Research Council — but a virulently homophobic activist once claimed McHenry was gay and should come out.

Who is Patrick McHenry?

McHenry represents North Carolina's 10th Congressional District, which extends from the suburbs of Charlotte — North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area — west into some rural communities. Before running for Congress, he served one term in the North Carolina House, to which he was elected in 2002 at age 27. He worked in George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000 and then worked in the Bush administration as special assistant to the secretary of Labor. He also has been a political media consultant. He will turn 48 on October 22.

He advanced to the interim post when a majority of representatives voted Tuesday to remove California’s Kevin McCarthy as speaker. “According to House rules, McHenry was picked from a list McCarthy was required to keep and will serve essentially as the acting speaker — known as speaker pro tempore — until the chamber figures out who will be the next leader,” the Associated Press explains.

The speaker, as leader of the House, is drawn from the majority party, in this case the Republicans. Most Republicans voted to keep McCarthy as speaker, but a few far-right rebels in the party, led by Matt Gaetz of Florida, joined all Democrats who were present in voting to remove him. Democrats had decided to present a united front against McCarthy, as they deemed him a right-wing extremist, but to Gaetz and his allies, McCarthy wasn’t sufficiently right-wing.

McHenry not only voted against removing McCarthy but gave a speech on the House floor defending him.

How anti-LGBTQ+ is the Republican lawmaker?

McHenry’s record is pretty much as conservative as McCarthy’s. The North Carolinian is in his 10th term in the House and has scored mostly zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which rates how supportive U.S. House and Senate members are on LGBTQ+ and related issues. McHenry has received a zero in each of his terms except two — one where he scored eight out of 100 and another where he scored 30, both for supporting the Violence Against Women Act. (McCarthy, who is in his ninth term, has all zeroes.)

Among the major LGBTQ+ rights bills McHenry has voted against are the Equality Act, the Respect for Marriage Act, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In 2006 he voted for the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would have written a ban on same-sex marriage into the U.S. Constitution.

“Marriage, family and community are not catch phrases — they are the backbone of American society,” he said in a 2006 statement on the amendment. “Sadly, however, there is an organized effort by judicial activists and the radical left to destroy our traditional American culture. … We must defend what is sacred in our nation from the reckless actions of a dangerous few who seek to impose their liberal lunacy on our society.”

That same year he condemned a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality in that state. “This is another attempt to destroy the institution that is the cornerstone of civilization and family life – marriage,” he said. He used the occasion for another call for a constitutional amendment, saying, “Families and people of faith are looking to those they elect to take action and protect marriage between one man and one woman from these deviant attacks.”

More recently, he has supported federal legislation to bar transgender girls and women from competing in female sports. He is also against abortion rights and gun restrictions, and he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In 2008 two anti-LGBTQ+ groups, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, honored McHenry as a "True Blue" member of Congress, citing "his unwavering commitment to family values." The groups mentioned his votes against abortion-related measures as well as his anti-LGBTQ+ stances, the latter including his vote against what they called a "thought crimes" bill, the hate-crimes act. “Family values, the values of Western North Carolina, are frequently under attack in Washington, and I am honored to be recognized by the Family Research Council for defending them,” McHenry said in a press release at the time.

In 2010 anti-LGBTQ+ crusader Peter LaBarbera, founder of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, asserted that McHenry and several other political officials are gay and should come out. He said McHenry and the others had been “the subject of wide speculation that they practice(d) homosexuality” and that the public shouldn’t “be left guessing as to whether a judicial nominee or politician has a special, personal interest in homosexuality.” He also said McHenry’s then-upcoming marriage to a woman could be a “sham.” McHenry apparently did not respond to LaBarbera.

Did he really evict Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi from her office?

One of McHenry’s first acts as interim speaker was to order Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi to vacate her office in the Capitol, according to Pelosi. She, like other House members, has another office in a building across the street, but she has been entitled to the Capitol office as a former speaker.

Pelosi, who was in California to attend U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s funeral, issued a statement saying that “eviction is a sharp departure from tradition” and that the House should be dealing with “truly important” matters instead. Another Democratic House member, former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was booted from his Capitol office as well, CNN reports.

Will McHenry be the next speaker?

McHenry hasn’t expressed interest in being speaker beyond his interim assignment, but Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio have announced runs for the post. Another House member, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, has said he’s keeping his options open. Like most Republicans, all have poor records on LGBTQ+ issues.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.