Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, has a history of seeking to deny equal rights to LGBTQ Americans.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s latest nominee for Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, represents an assault on the values that have made our military so strong.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who represent a state with nearly 80,000 service members, should actively reject his nomination.
Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, has a history of seeking to deny equal rights to LGBTQ Americans. His views are well outside the mainstream. He recently said “transgender is a disease,” and he has repeatedly sponsored discriminatory legislation similar to that attempted in Georgia, Indiana, and most notoriously, North Carolina. Green also encouraged local officials to break the law and deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 Obergefell decision.
I served in the Army as an enlisted paratrooper, including one combat deployment to the Afghan-Pakistani border. The Army represents the best of America — a diverse group of men and women fighting together for a common objective. Green’s confirmation would undermine that objective and would undermine the readiness of our military.
Discrimination has a real and lasting impact on military readiness. In the years between Sept. 11, 2001, and the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies, nearly 6,000 LGBTQ service members left the military. This attrition cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and weakened the all-volunteer force by compelling the military to fire talented, patriotic men and women who filled critical roles throughout the Armed Services.
This is to say nothing of how Green’s confirmation would harm recruiting. Last year alone, the Army recruited nearly 80,000 soldiers, and, increasingly, the recruits must possess specialized skills. We should not be needlessly shrinking the available talent pool, as Green’s confirmation would do; we should expand it.
The number of gay, lesbian and transgender troops serving today is difficult to estimate, but recent studies suggest there are at least 85,000 LGBTQ troops, including 15,000 who are transgender. That the numbers are difficult to know is reflective of an institution that until 2011 was legally obliged to enforce an explicitly homophobic personnel policy. There remains an ongoing fight around the acceptance of transgender troops, one that seemed to have been finally settled when President Obama ended the ban on serving openly last summer.
According to former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Dan Feehan, “the military has come a long way in a short amount of time, and it can’t afford to have leadership whose recent history very clearly expresses such unapologetic contempt for some of our communities.”
Feehan — an Army veteran with two combat tours in Iraq — added that if Green, who hopes to follow the first openly gay service secretary, Eric Fanning, in the Army’s top job, is confirmed, “there will be an immediate and negative impact on unit cohesion and readiness, to speak nothing of the morale of LGBTQ service members, their families, and their allies.”
Green’s confirmation is not inevitable. Already, groups such as the American Military Partner Association and Human Rights Campaign are condemning the nomination as “shameful” and “appalling,” and promise a fight. Recent reporting suggests that the “New York” faction of the White House is ascendant, and surely Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner do not want Trump, who campaigned as a “real friend” to the LGBTQ community, to be associated with the raw homophobia that Green’s nomination will dredge up.
Green’s confirmation would signal renewed acceptance of hostility toward LGBTQ soldiers throughout the ranks, which will be especially discouraging for newer recruits. With multiple global flashpoints heating up, the Army can scarcely afford to lose the talents of these courageous men and women.
Our national security is weakened when we lose the service of our most capable people. The Senate must reject Green as Secretary of the Army. Let’s keep our most capable instead.