Meet Rep. Mike Johnson, the new speaker of the House who introduced the national version of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law and played a key role in Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election

  • Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana was elected to be the next speaker of the House on Wednesday.

  • He's a staunch social conservative who introduced a bill similar to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law.

  • He also moonlights as a Liberty University professor and spearheaded efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Following three failed GOP speakership bids in the three weeks since Kevin McCarthy's ouster, the House elected Rep. Mike Johnson of Lousiana on Wednesday to be the next speaker of the House.

He won with the unanimous support of House Republicans.

Johnson, a relatively unknown 51-year-old congressman first elected in 2016, is a staunch social conservative and evangelical Christian who already served in party leadership as the vice chair of the House GOP conference.

He may have been the best man for the job simply because he has no major enemies — he has good relationships with members of the hard right flank of the conference, and he's collegial and low-profile enough for more vulnerable lawmakers to accept.

The Louisiana Republican became the party's nominee after House Majority Whip Tom Emmer's candidacy was derailed by former President Donald Trump, who called Emmer a "RINO" as dozens of hardliners made clear they were not ready to support his candidacy. Emmer was ultimately the party's nominee for just over four hours before he withdrew on Tuesday.

Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was the party's nominee, losing support with each successive floor vote until he was voted down by the conference on Friday. Before that, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was briefly the nominee.

As the speaker, Johnson will be second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Kamala Harris. Here's what you need to know about him.

Last year, he introduced a bill similar to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law

Johnson with fellow Republicans after claiming the GOP nomination on Tuesday night.
Johnson with fellow Republicans after claiming the GOP nomination on Tuesday night.Tom Brenner for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Last October, Johnson led over two dozen of his colleagues in introducing the "Stop the Sexualization of Children Act of 2022."

The bill is essentially the national version of Florida's Parental Rights in Education Law — dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by critics.

The bill prohibits federal funds from being used to promote "any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10" and bans federal funding from being used for drag shows or "Drag Queen Story Hour."

But the bill's definition of "sexually-oriented material" includes "any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects."

That's led the Human Rights Campaign to condemn the bill as the "latest cruel attempt to stigmatize and marginalize the community."

He played a bigger role than most House Republicans in Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election

Johnson speaking on the House floor on January 6, 2021.
Johnson speaking on the House floor on January 6, via Getty Images


Like most of his GOP colleagues, Johnson voted against certifying the electoral college results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, even after a mob ransacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

But Johnson was also the lead organizer of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Texas's lawsuit asking the court to halt the certification of the vote in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The day after President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, Johnson said he called Trump and encouraged him to "keep fighting."

On the morning of January 6, he tweeted that Republicans "MUST fight for election integrity, the Constitution, and the preservation of our republic!"

On Tuesday, ABC reporter Rachel Scott tried to ask Johnson whether he stood by those efforts, leading the Republicans gathered around him to drown out her question with laughter and booing.

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina even told Scott to "shut up."

He's among the Republicans opposed to sending US aid to Ukraine

Johnson with Reps. Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene at the Capitol on May 11, 2023.
Johnson with Reps. Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene at the Capitol on May 11, 2023.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Johnson has continually voted against sending US aid to Ukraine and was among the original 57 Republicans who first did so in May 2022.

"We should not be sending another $40 billion abroad when our own border is in chaos, American mothers are struggling to find baby formula, gas prices are at record highs, and American families are struggling to make ends meet, without sufficient oversight over where the money will go," he said at the time.

That means his ascent to the speakership could imperil the future of US aid to the war-torn country, which continues to rely on American assistance in its war against Russia.

McCarthy, while careful to state that he opposes a "blank check" for Ukraine, was generally supportive of sending aid. The Louisiana Republican would be the first congressional leader to be opposed to Ukraine aid.

He's made more than $120,000 moonlighting as a professor at Liberty University, an evangelical college

Trump delivers the convocation speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on January 18, 2016.
Trump delivers the convocation speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia on January 18, 2016.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There's little publicly-available information about Johnson's activities at Liberty University, and Insider has reached out to the university for further details.

But according to his financial disclosures, he's made a decent chunk of change on the side teaching online courses, including more than $10,000 in 2018, more than $26,000 in 2019 and 2020, and more than $29,000 in 2021 and 2022, for a total of $111,885.

According to a biography on the website Answers in Genesis, Johnson has taught "Constitution and free enterprise" at the university's Helms School of Government.

Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr.

His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., previously ran the university until he resigned amid a sex scandal in 2020. Falwell had been a prominent Trump backer within the evangelical community.

Correction: October 25, 2023 — An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money Johnson has made from Liberty University. He has made $122,485, not $111,885.

He's in a "covenant marriage," which makes it harder for him to get divorced

Johnson being sworn in by then-Speaker Paul Ryan in January 2017.
Johnson with his wife, Kelly, as he's sworn in by then-Speaker Paul Ryan in January 2017.AP Photo/Zach Gibson

Johnson is one of the few Americans in a "covenant marriage," a legal arrangement that makes it harder for couples to get a divorce.

He married his wife Kelly in 1999, and both of them voluntarily opted into the arrangement.

Under Louisiana state law, couples sign a document in which they agree to seek marital counseling before getting a divvorce. Additionally, couples can only get divorced on a limited set of grounds, including for adultery, if one partner committed a felony or faces imprisonment, or physical or sexual abuse.

"My wife and I both come from traditional Christian households," Johnson told ABC in 2005. "My own parents are divorced. As anyone who goes through that knows, that was a traumatic thing for our whole family. I'm a big proponent of marriage and fidelity and all the things that go with it, and I've seen firsthand the devastation [divorce] can cause."

"I think that it would be a pretty big red flag if you asked your mate or your fiancé, 'Let's do a covenant marriage,' and they said they don't really want to do that," Kelly Johnson told the outlet.

He once supported the criminalization of gay sex

Johnson after being elected speaker on Wednesday.
Johnson after being elected speaker on Wednesday.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As CNN's KFILE reported on Wednesday, Johnson once argued in favor of criminalizing gay sex.

"States have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse," he wrote in a July 2003 op-ed. "By closing these bedroom doors, they have opened a Pandora's box."

At the time, Johnson worked at the Alliance Defense Fund, now known as Alliance Defending Freedom. That group wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas case in which the court overturned state-level bans on same-sex intercourse. Johnson and the group had opposed it.

Johnson also once described homosexuality as "inherently unnatural" and a "dangerous lifestyle."

"Homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural and, the studies clearly show, are ultimately harmful and costly for everyone," Johnson wrote in a 2004 op-ed. "Society cannot give its stamp of approval to such a dangerous lifestyle. 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."

He also argued at the time that legalizing gay marriage would "de-emphasize the importance of traditional marriage to society, weaken it, and place our entire democratic system in jeopardy by eroding its foundation."

Read the original article on Business Insider