WASHINGTON — Advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights urged the Senate on Monday to reject President Trump’s choice for Army secretary, calling him “a social issues warrior” who has worked to undermine LGBT rights at every turn.
“The administration could not have picked a worse nominee,” said David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign.
Trump announced Friday he is nominating Mark Green, a former Army officer and Republican state senator from Tennessee, to lead the Army. If confirmed by the Senate, he would succeed Eric Fanning, the first openly gay leader of a branch of the military.
Green, 52, is a physician and West Point graduate who is popular among many Tea Party-aligned Republicans. He was deployed three times overseas during his military service and was an Army medic for a special operations team that captured Saddam Hussein. Green wrote a book about the experience.
Gay-rights groups, however, contend he’s one of the most extreme, anti-LGBT politicians in the country and worry that, if confirmed, he would work to roll back the progress that has been made in integrating openly gay men and women in the armed forces since the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on military service.
“We’ve finally ended archaic policies that forced service members and their families to hide who they are and treated them as second class citizens,” said Stephen Peters, the Human Rights Campaign’s press secretary and a military veteran who was discharged under “don’t Ask, don’t tell.”
Putting Green in charge of the Army “would send an incredibly dangerous message down the chain of command, a message that undermines the important progress we have made.”
LGBT groups point to Green’s legislative record in Tennessee and his public comments on issues such as same-sex marriage and transgender rights as proof of his “radical and outdated” views.
The bill would prevent local governments from taking “discriminatory action” against a company based on the company’s policies related to personnel or employee benefits. This could include either not contracting with a vendor or canceling a current contract.
Hence, a local government would be blocked from ending a contract with a company for the sole reason that it did not have employee protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender workers.
The bill passed the Tennessee Senate but died in the House.
LGBT groups also took exception to a number of comments that Green has made regarding gay-rights issues.
While speaking to the Chattanooga Tea Party in 2016, Green referenced then-president Barack Obama’s federal guidelines allowing public school students to use restrooms and other facilities corresponding to their gender identity.
Green called transgender men and women “guys or gals with question marks” and complained, “The notion that Mr. Obama thinks he can tell the state of Tennessee who can go into a men’s bathroom or a women’s bathroom is absurd.”
In the same speech, Green suggested Tennessee should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and insinuated that permissive attitudes that legalized same-sex marriage could eventually open the door to using taxpayer dollars for infanticide.
“That’s absurd. Right?” he said. “We would think, ‘Oh, they’ll never get there.’ But 30 years ago, that’s what they thought about two guys getting married. So at what point do you just say, ‘I drew this line in the sand,’ and ‘No!’ ”
Green could not be reached for comment. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week he is confident of Green’s ability to lead the Army.
“Mark will provide strong civilian leadership, improve military readiness and support our service members, civilians and their families,” Mattis said in a statement issued shortly after Green’s nomination was announced.
LGBT groups began reaching out over the weekend to Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans to let them know about Green’s views, said Stacy, with the Human Rights Campaign.
“We are hearing real concerns,” not only from lawmakers, but also from gay and lesbian military personnel who fear what Green’s nomination could mean for their future, Stacy said.
Contributing: Joey Garrison of the USA TODAY Network-Tennessee