On the day that newly installed U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson — a Republican serving Louisiana — was voted in by the Republican House majority, I was in the middle of a road trip from North Carolina to Florida. I was in a unique position to listen to all the major news networks reporting on the nearly unknown representative from a state that's floundering.
What struck me most of all from reports and interviews on progressive outlets like CNN to conservative ones like Fox is the fellow Republicans stated that Johnson was mainly a good pick because “He's a really nice guy. He's a true family man. He's a man of faith, gets along with everybody," according to one of his House colleagues.
My jaw literally dropped as I drove and heard this. America has so devolved, thanks to Johnson-supporting Donald Trump, that we have a voting majority of our Congress denouncing those who stand for equality and honesty. We reward those like Speaker Johnson, with hatred in their hearts, by granting them the job that makes him second in line for the U.S. presidency — all because they're nice.
While Johnson is considered civil, his heart is hardly filled with love for most Americans who are and support women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color. Below the kind and nice surface lies one of the most menacing minds to exact inequality on America at virtually every level. In fact, he’s a threat to all Americans and democracy itself by being the chief architect for overturning the 2020 election on behalf of Trump, using his constitutional knowledge in a failed effort to twist the Electoral College voting process to deny President Biden his rightfully elected position.
Maya Angelou once famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” There is no more appropriate statement to look past the false exterior of Johnson to see who he really is. So when you no doubt hear Johnson speak eloquently, with civility, and with Bible scriptures sprinkled in, remember the following ways he has shown “who they are”:
Despite support from the NAACP and a supermajority of Americans, Speaker Mike Johnson denounced and led efforts against the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as well as voting against the Equality Act, Respect for Marriage Act, LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.
Inspired by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's ‘don’t say gay’ legislation, Speaker Johnson sponsored a national “don’t say LGBTQ+” bill in the most recent session of Congress, attacking LGBTQ+ Americans by broadening “sexually oriented material” to include “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects” as well as banning any discussion let alone much needed support of those topics in schools.
Regarding Speaker’s Johnson record of being anti-women and vehemently against abortion rights, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said on October 25, 2023, “Mike Johnson, probably more so than almost any other member of the House Republican conference, wants to criminalize abortion care and impose a nationwide ban.” In fact, prior to being installed into Congress just six years ago, Speaker Johnson legally represented and spoke for the Alliance Defense Fund, known today as Alliance Defending Freedom, which was the principal organization helping support and defend anti-abortion laws in multiple states, including in Mississippi in the case that led the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Despite being a respected constitutional attorney, Speaker Mike Johnson turned insurrectionist in 2021 and maligned the truth by becoming the lead congressional voice and architect of the primary rationale to overturn the lawful and truthful election of President Joe Biden in favor of his strongest opponent, former President Trump, in a case that the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear.
Joining as cosponsor of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s legislation, Speaker Johnson also led efforts to stop health care for trans youth nationwide by lying and stating disinformation that spread to millions on social media and conservative news outlets.
Speaker Johnson wrote in a 2004 editorial for the News-Star newspaper in Monroe, La., “If we change marriage for the homosexual activists, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection.”
Few things have depressed me more as a gay American than researching and writing the above points. So while Johnson may be characterized as “nice” as rationale for his election to speaker, he is a staunch, unapologetic misogynist, bigot, homophobe, and denier of the democracy. You have to look no further than former President Trump, who not only tanked the prospects of other candidates and took credit for Johnson’s elevation, for how scary a threat the speaker is to America and democracy. At this point, we can all feel hopeless and helpless, but each of us equally horrified by Speaker Johnson’s election can come together to make this a short-lived position.
Firstly, educate yourself and constantly remind yourself of Johnson’s true heart whenever you see him speak, no matter how kind or respectful. Next, politely counter any thoughts and comments from any who start to fall for the "nice" demeanor of Johnson. There are more than 14 current congressional representatives who voted for Johnson who come from districts that voted for Joe Biden in 2020. If you vote in these districts, please vote next year to throw out these individuals for not representing you, and if you can, support with time and donations those candidates who will support women, LGBTQ+ people, people of color, and all Americans. Together, our supermajority can turn out these haters and democracy deniers.
Michael D. Kelley is a cofounder and a principal LGBTQ+ shareholder of equalpride, publisher of The Advocate. His opinion pieces represent his own viewpoints and not necessarily those of equalpride or its affiliates, partners, or management.