Five anti-LGBTQ+ House Republicans have announced their intentions to retire. While some of them blamed their GOP colleagues’ antics for their early departures, their announcements have coincided with recent Republican losses in an off-year election and the rise of former President Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary.
The representatives — Reps. Ken Buck (R-CO), Kay Granger (R-TX), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), and Victoria Spartz (R-IN) — all voted against the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, a law that requires the federal government to recognize legal same-sex marriages.
“The Republican House is failing the American people again,” Spartz said. “[The House is] like a theater full of actors in the circus…. Our children will be ashamed of another worthless Congress.”
“Right now, Washington, D.C. is broken; it is hard to get anything done,” Lesko said in a statement.
“I always have been disappointed with our inability in Congress to deal with major issues, and I’m also disappointed that the Republican Party continues to rely on this lie that the 2020 election was stolen,” Buck said. “Our nation is on a collision course with reality and a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward.”
Buck predicted that even more House Republicans will leave “in the near future,” The Hill reported.
These announced departures accompany recent unrest among Republicans following a contentious three-week search for a new House speaker after the previous one, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was ousted by far-right Republicans for striking a deal with Democrats to pass a stopgap funding bill to avert a federal government shutdown. With another shutdown looming, the new speaker, rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), seems poised to do the exact same thing.
Republicans are also reeling from heavy election night losses in which Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature, passed abortion protections in Ohio, elected a Democratic governor in red-state Kentucky, and defeated the book-banning “parents’ rights” group Moms for Liberty in school board races nationwide. Many pundits said that the election results signal a growing backlash to Republicans’ pro-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ culture war that could hurt the party’s chances in the 2024 presidential election.
Trump also seems highly likely to clinch the party’s presidential nomination, putting Republicans nationwide in the uncomfortable position of either supporting Trump’s anti-democratic stances or angering his loyal (and large) voting base. While recent national polls show Trump beating President Joe Biden in key swing states, polls also suggest that large swaths will stop supporting Trump if he’s convicted of any of the 91 federal criminal charges facing him.
It’s likely that the departing Republicans — especially those from conservative-leaning districts — will simply be replaced by Republicans who are similarly anti-LGBTQ+. But the departures signal a widening rift between Trump’s small but influential MAGA wing and the party’s more moderate members.