Mike Johnson, the new Republican House Speaker, claimed that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to people marrying their pets and pedophiles seeking the same rights to wed children.
Johnson made the argument in a local newspaper column as he supported a legal amendment blocking same-sex marriage in Louisiana in 2004.
It was one of a series of public statements he made at the time which now threaten to overshadow his election to the speakership.
Some Republicans were caught off guard by the comments which resurfaced as Johnson triumphed on Wednesday, three chaotic weeks after the historic ousting of his predecessor Kevin McCarthy.
Mike Johnson (R-LA) takes the oath as Speaker of the House
Mike and Kelly Johnson as a young couple
Johnson wrote a series of opinion articles in The Shreveport Times in the mid-2000s when he was a lawyer representing the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group, which was campaigning against legalization of same-sex marriage.
On September 12, 2004 he wrote: ‘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.’
Johnson added: ‘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.
‘If everyone does what is right in his own eyes, chaos and sexual anarchy will result.’
He added that ‘homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural’ and that ‘society cannot give its stamp of approval to such a dangerous lifestyle.’
The future Speaker wrote that the ‘our entire democratic system (is) in jeopardy by eroding its foundation.’
In a similar, earlier column on February 22, 2004 he argued against same-sex marriage because it would lead to transsexual marriage.
He wrote: ‘If activist judges can reject thousands of years of history and legitimize homosexual marriage, then transsexual and group “marriages” of every sort must logically follow.’
As he argued his case Johnson cited the infamous incident, three weeks earlier, when pop star Janet Jackson inadvertently bared her breast during the Super Bowl half-time show.
He wrote: ‘If you were shocked by the moral lapses at the Super Bowl, you ain’t seen nothing yet.’
In 2004 Mike Johnson said legalizing same-sex marriage would be much more shocking than the exposing of Janet Jackson’s breast at the Super Bowl half-time show
He went on to describe same-sex marriage as the ‘dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.’
The following year he wrote: ‘Your race, creed, and sex are what you are, while homosexuality and cross-dressing are things you do. This is a free country, but we don’t give special protections for every person’s bizarre choices.’
In another column he wrote that ‘by closing bedroom doors’ and allowing people to engage in homosexual activity the courts were ‘opening a Pandora’s box,” he added.
Earlier, in February 2003, Johnson wrote the Alliance Defense Fund’s legal submission opposing a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.
That ruling overturned state laws which had criminalized homosexual activity by consenting adults.
Over 45 pages he argued that homosexual activity should be criminalized because it was a public health concern, and cited various studies.
He said: ‘States have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse.’
Johnson added that by ‘closing these bedroom doors’ and allowing people to privately engage in homosexual activity, the courts had ‘opened a Pandora’s box.’
He wrote that ‘all’ gay people were ‘capable of changing their abnormal lifestyles’ and there is ‘clearly no “right to sodomy” in the Constitution.’
An article written by Mike Johnson in 2004
Johnson faced immediate criticism over his two-decade old comments from gay rights campaigners and Democrats.
As he was voted in to to the speakership Democrat congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota, one of the few openly gay members of Congress, shouted: ‘Happy wedding anniversary to my wife!’
There has been little criticism from Republicans, who have united around Johnson after failing for weeks to agree on a new Speaker.
Johnson was asked about his comments in an interview with Fox News on Thursday night.
He told Sean Hannity: ‘I don’t even remember some of them.’
The new Speaker added: ‘Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview. That’s what I believe, so I do no apologize for it.
‘I also genuinely love all people regardless of their lifestyle choices. This is not about the people themselves. I am a Bible-believing Christian.’
Mike Johnson speaks to Sean Hannity on Fox News
Johnson said he had been a religious liberty defense lawyer and had been ‘called to defend those cases in the courts.’
Ultimately, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
This week, Johnson made clear he is a ‘rule of law guy’ and respected the law of the land.
He said: ‘I made a career defending the rule of law, I respect the rule of law.’