LGBTQ rights advocates are mobilizing in response to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Tennessee State Senator Mark Green as the next secretary of the Army.
Green, a West Point graduate who spent 20 years in active military service, has been an outspoken opponent of equality, introducing legislation this year to make it the policy of the State of Tennessee “to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary” and last fall declaring that being transgender is a “disease.”
In a press call on April 10, Stephen Peters, the press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and a former service member discharged under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy, termed Green’s nomination “shocking” and “appalling,” describing the Tennessee state senator as “one of the most anti-LGBT politicians in the nation.”
HRC puts pressure on Senate after Tennessee official named to replace out gay Eric Fanning
Peters, who said his husband is currently an active duty service member, warned that Green as Army secretary “would send an incredibly dangerous message down the line of command. He cannot be trusted to lead the Army forward.”
If confirmed, Green would succeed Eric Fanning, the first out gay Army secretary, who has served since last spring.
HRC was joined on the press call by Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a support group for partners, families, and allies of LGBTQ service members and veterans. Broadway-Mack also charged that Green’s confirmation would imperil morale in the Army, thereby hurting national security.
“At a time of unrest around the world, all service members should have the confidence they have the full support” of the nation’s leaders, she said.
Peters emphasized the depth of Green’s hostility to the community, saying he “has spent his legislative career looking to undermine LGBT rights at every turn.”
In remarks last fall to a Chattanooga Tea Party gathering, Green said, “If you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease. It is a part of the DSM-6, I think it is, the book of diagnostic psychological procedures or diagnoses.”
That assertion is not true. In 2011, the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Green went on to tell the Tea Party group, “But you ask about how we fix it — how we get the toothpaste back in the tube — I gotta tell you, it’s going to start with me being the salt and the light to the people around me. I mean, if you really want to bring this back to who’s at fault, we got to look a little bit inwardly. We’ve tolerated immorality. And we’re reflecting light.”
At the same gathering, Green also talked about his support for public officials in Tennessee ignoring the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry. In February of this year, he signed on as a “prime co-sponsor” of legislation that would make it state policy “to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.”
Last year, he pushed for a law that would bar the state and localities from penalizing any business — such as in the awarding of contracts — for any of their personnel or benefits policies, such as denying same-sex spouses insurance coverage customarily available to spouses.
In the wake of the criticism from advocates such as HRC and AMPA, Green sought to distance himself from his controversial politics, telling the Army Times in a written statement, “I was nominated by President Trump to do one job: serve as his secretary of the Army. If confirmed, I will solely focus on making recommendations to him on how to keep our country safe and secure. Politics will have nothing to do with it.”
Given changes in the Senate’s filibuster rules enacted in recent years, Green can be confirmed by a simple majority vote, meaning that opponents of his nomination must keep all Democrats on their side and woo at least three Republican senators. David Stacy, HRC’s government affairs director, suggested that is a doable task, saying the nomination “is a non-starter with Democrats, and it is a non-starter with moderate Republicans. It seems calculated to have a fight.”
Then, voicing wonderment at why Trump is choosing this battle, Stacy added, “I’m not sure what the political calculus is.”
Asked what feedback HRC is getting from senators, Peters and Stacy noted that the nomination was only announced late on Friday, April 7 after a congressional recess had begun and that their conversations were in an early stage.
Marisa Kaufman, a spokesperson for Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate minority leader, in an email message told Gay City News, “Senator Schumer has concerns with nominee Mark Green, particularly regarding his history on issues that affect the LGBTQ community. The Senate minority leader is strongly urging the Armed Services Committee to ask the nominee tough questions during his hearing and take a very close look at his history.”
Marc Brumer, a spokesperson for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of that committee, told Gay City News that the senator “has serious concerns about Mark Green, particularly his deeply troubling record of supporting policies that are discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. She will look to hear these concerns addressed during his confirmation hearings.”
It is a sign of how tough the sledding is on LGBTQ issues in Washington these days that advocates like HRC are focusing on the Green nomination to the Army post, while not putting significant efforts into opposing the nomination of Heather Wilson, a former Republican member of Congress from New Mexico who also has a long anti-LGBTQ record, as Air Force secretary. During her decade in Congress, she supported a federal constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage, opposed federal anti-bullying legislation saying “we have to recognize as parents that children tease each other,” and said of LGBTQ rights generally, “There are things I’m willing to tolerate that I’m not willing to approve of.”
Of the Air Force nomination HRC’s Stacy said, “We’re not a big fan of Heather Wilson, either. But Green is above and beyond.”