There has been much celebration over Paul Ryan stepping down as House speaker. But the the two top contenders as his replacement, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, should give LGBT Americans real cause for concern.
Ryan was never an ally to the LGBT community, but he made his name with ultra-conservative stances on economic, rather than social issues. The Wisconsin Republican repeatedly voted against both marriage equality and same-sex adoption, but ultimately changed his mind on the latter.
At a 2013 town hall he said:
I’d vote differently these days. That was I think a vote I took in my first term, 1999 or 2000. I do believe that if there are children who are orphans who do not have a loving person or couple I think if a person wants to love and raise a child they ought to be able to do that. Period. I would vote that way. I do believe marriage is between a man and a woman, we just respectfully disagree on that issue.
Ryan did vote to include LGBT victims in the Violence Against Women Act, and twice voted for legislation protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination.
Kevin McCarthy has already emerged as the front runner for Speaker, with Scalise telling Fox he wouldn't run against him.
As the U.S. Representative for California's 23rd district, he also strongly opposed marriage equality—he even joined former Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor in asking the Supreme Court to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
And unlike Ryan, McCarthy supported allowing employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation: In 2016, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) would've barred federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination. But thanks to wrangling by McCarthy, it failed by a single vote.
“Kevin McCarthy was personally twisting arms on the floor,” Maloney, who is gay, told NBC. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that craven and that ugly in my time in Congress.”
Steve Scalise—who has reportedly referred to himself as “David Duke without the baggage”—also has an anti-LGBT record, one that's even worse than McCarthy's. Unlike both McCarthy and Ryan, the Louisiana Republican voted against including LGBT victims in the Violence Against Women Act.
Scalise also voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and against hate-crimes legislation. Scalise was one of 130 co-sponsors of the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill that would've enshrined anti-LGBT discrimination. (He also helped wrangle votes against Rep. Maloney's anti-discrimination measure.)
Unsurprisingly, he's consistently opposed marriage equality: When a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2014, Scalise hailed it as "an important win for marriage."
Even a brush with death did not change his worldview: Just months after lesbian police officer Crystal Griner took a bullet for him, Scalise spoke at the Values Voter Summit, hosted by the notoriously homophobic Family Research Council.