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Speaker Johnson & LGBTQ+ Fears

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

The election of Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana to be the new speaker of the House places him in an enormously influential position in Congress and second in line for the Presidency. How will he affect social policy in the U.S.?

As the architect of last year’s national “Don’t Say Gay” bill, leaders in the LGBTQ+ community are concerned about what could lie ahead.

Todd Sears, the CEO and Founder of Out Leadership, an organization that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in business at all levels, says the policies espoused by Speaker Johnson would wreak havoc on our country’s economic and business climate.

"The man who literally thought that my existence would dismantle democracy is now the leader of part of our democratic process," Sears says on the Lean to the Left podcast. "So that as an American, as an LGBT American...this is not an LGBTQ issue. This goes to the heart of who we are as a country.

Sears says the vast majority of Americans support LGBT people and marriage equality, which "was decided years ago," he says. "And by the way, almost 95 percent of corporate America supports LGBTQ people and has for two decades. So this man is out of step with not just the LGBTQ community, but the vast majority of Americans."

Pointing out that right-wing state lawmakers have introduced or passed nearly 900 anti-LGBTQ+ bills or proposals, Sears fears that Johnson will attempt to enact similar measures nationally.

"If he's leading the Republican caucus, of course, he's going to push his agenda, which is right wing extremist, radical, anti business, anti LGBTQ, the man's history speaks for itself," Sears says as he discussed Speaker Johnson & LGBTQ+ fears of increased anti-gay and anti-trans policies.

Sears has spent more than two decades working at the intersection of finance and equality.

He began his career as an investment banker before joining Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. There, he created the first team of financial advisors in Wall Street focused on the LGBTQ+ community and brought nearly $2 billion of new assets to the firm from LGBTQ+ couples and non profit organizations.

Sears joined us on the podcast from Sydney, Australia, where he was addressing a business conference sponsored by Out Leadership.

Here are some questions we discussed regarding Speaker Johnson & LGBTQ+ fears:

Q. Can you tell us a little more about yourself? I read somewhere that when you were five you asked your mom what being gay was about. What happened after that?

Q. What does Out Leadership do? What is your charge as an organization?

Q. What was it in Speaker Johnson’s background that causes concern for you as an American — and as an LGBTQ American?

Q. You mention in your statement for the press about Johnson that he is one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers — why do you say that?

Q. Johnson was the author of the National Don’t Say Gay bill, like what Governor DeSantis championed in Florida, right? Are you seeing growth in anti-gay political actions around the country?

Q. What are the threats to LGBTQ+ equality and access in America right now? With Speaker Johnson second in line for the presidency are you concerned?

Q. Speaker Johnson has represented Louisiana in Congress since 2017, and before that in the state legislature — what is the LGBTQ+ climate like in LA?

Q. Louisiana is ranked at the bottom of your LGBTQ+ Climate Index – 48 to be exact – tell me more about the Index, what it measures, and how LA landed among the worst states when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality and access?

Q. How did the United States do overall this year in your Climate Index?

Q. There have been over 600 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced around the country just this year. How would you describe these attacks by politicians like Gov. DeSantis and the record of the new Speaker?

Q. you’ve contended that the global business community continues to move in the opposite direction. How are companies and individuals making concrete commitments towards full LGBTQ+ inclusion?

Q. Where is the nation right now when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Q. Your organization just released a new global talent survey showing a record-number of LGBTQ+ employees feel comfortable being out at work – while finding today’s workplace overwhelmingly supportive of LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Do those in the vocal minority promoting so-called “anti-woke” policies put this trend in potential jeopardy?

Q. Are you concerned that Johnson will try to enact some of these ant-LBGTQ+ laws nationally?

Q. What do you and Out Leadership find when it comes to corporations and businesses when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Q. What work is Out Leadership doing outside the U.S. and what are you seeing globally? Are there any comparisons between businesses in other countries to those in the United States when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

Q. What is the economic impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws and initiatives on American life, and business?

Q. In terms of wrapping this all up with Speaker Johnon’s election, what other trends do you want to share with my listeners that you see in your work and research?