A Slate magazine columnist has seized on Tennessee Sen. Mark Green's appearance at the Chattanooga Tea Party last year to bolster his argument the Clarksville Republican is unfit to serve as Army secretary under President Donald Trump.
When the White House announced the pick on April 7, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the former Army surgeon and West Point graduate "will provide strong civilian leadership, improve military readiness and support our service members, civilians, and their families," The Hill reported.
But LGBT rights advocates slammed the nomination, citing Green's record of sponsoring or supporting anti-gay legislation, even as the Pentagon is scheduled to begin accepting transgender soldiers this year.
"Green has made a shameful political career out of targeting LGBT people for discrimination," Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement. "All soldiers and their families, including those who are LGBT, should have confidence that the Secretary of the Army has their back and is working for their best interest. Unfortunately, based on his vicious, anti-LGBT record, Mark Green cannot be trusted to ensure all those who serve have the support they need and deserve."
Neither Green nor Chattanooga Tea Party president Mark West responded to a midweek request for comment.
Nathaniel Frank, director of the What We Know Project at Columbia Law School, cited Green's Chattanooga talk in his Thursday Slate column.
In a Sept. 14 speech and Q&A with tea party members that lasted more than an hour, Green was asked how middle-ranking military members felt about the "social revolution imposed on them by this government." President Barack Obama's Army secretary, Eric Fanning, was the first openly gay military service secretary.
"Remember, the young troops are millennials and they don't really care," Green responded. "'A gay guy wants to fight for the country? Let's let him.'"
He went on to say, however: "If you poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you transgender is a disease," and added, "if you really want to bring this back to who's at fault, we've got to look a little inwardly. We've tolerated immorality."
Green added that the remedy might be "civil disobedience."
"The governor could point to stuff like that, say, 'No, we're not going to issue marriage licenses to gay people because our state voted differently. You want to have a bathroom that's separate for all the guys or gals with question marks, you set up your own bathroom and I've got your back.' We're going to need leadership that's willing to stand up."
Frank, in his column, said the American Psychiatric Association "removed 'gender identity disorder' from its list of mental illnesses nearly five years ago, and the military lifted its ban on transgender service without incident."
"For a man selling himself on the basis of his medical and military expertise, his ignorance about current medical and military consensus is startling," Frank wrote. "Yet Green's judgment on such matters is blinded by bias, dogma, willful ignorance and a commitment to pushing a rearguard social and religious agenda on the military and the nation."
In an April 5 column, Frank cited anti-gay bills Green sponsored or supported in the Tennessee General Assembly: one that said local governments couldn't bar contracts with businesses that discriminate against LGBT people; another requiring students to use bathrooms based on their birth sex rather than gender status; one allowing teachers to skip any subject "not consistent with the educator's own conscience," and one allowing counselors to refuse to treat LGBT patients based on their personal beliefs.
He also said Green's "ignorance and intolerance" for Muslims and Latinos, among others, "should quickly disqualify him from a senior post in a military that must mold millions of Americans of countless backgrounds into a cohesive fighting force.
"Green's political ambitions reveal a full-scale messianic complex that manifests itself as a dangerous willingness to exploit the military to advance an unvarnished view of straight, white Christian supremacy," Frank wrote.
Green's nomination would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.