Two advocacy groups are speaking out against President Donald Trump's nominee for Army secretary, citing his anti-LGBT record.
The White House on Friday announced the nomination of Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green, a former Army special operations flight surgeon, but opponents say his record of working against LGBT rights is a threat to soldiers.
"Mark Green's radical and extreme views about LGBT people, including those in uniform, would send an incredibly dangerous message down the chain of command," said Stephen Peters, Human Rights Campaign spokesman and a former Marine discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, in a press conference Monday.
Green, a West Point graduate, spent 20 years on active duty, including participating in the 2003 raid that captured Saddam Hussein. Today he represents the area of Tennessee near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Reached for comment, a representative said Green's past politics will not inform his decision-making as Army secretary.
"I was nominated by President Trump to do one job: serve as his secretary of the Army," Green said Tuesday in a statement to Army Times. "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."
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement issued Friday, voiced support for Green.
"He had my full support during the selection process, and he will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process," Mattis said. "I am confident of Mark's ability to effectively lead the Army."
But Peters said that Green's legislative track record and public comments have included moves to discriminate against LBGT people.
Currently, Green is a co-sponsor of a Tennessee bill that would prevent public agencies from denying a contract to a private company based on their personnel policies — for example, not providing benefits to same-sex couples
The senator argued on the state senate floor that the bill was intended to level the playing field regardless of a company's personnel policies, as Tennessee law does not prohibit employer discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, The Tennesseanreported in February.
Green also encouraged cities and counties to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize those marriages, HRC said in a release.
The state senator has also gone on record saying that he believes being transgender is a disease.
"If you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease," he said at a meeting of the Chattanooga Tea Party in September that was posted to YouTube.
"It is a part of the DSM-6, I think it is, the book of diagnostic psychological procedures or diagnoses. It’s very interesting to see what’s happening in government, or in our nation.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association updated its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2011, removing "gender identity disorder" and replacing it with "gender dysphoria," a condition of distress that some transgender people experience, according to the association's website.
"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," Green continued. "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."
In this April 17, 2013, file photo, state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, sits at his desk in the Senate chamber in Nashville, Tenn. President Donald Trump has nominated Green to be Army secretary after his first choice withdrew his name from consideration. The West Point graduate is a physician and the CEO of an emergency department staffing company.
Photo Credit: Erik Schelzig/AP
Those comments are deeply concerning, LGBT advocates said Monday.
In terms of rolling back progressive policies that opened up service to LGBT troops during the Obama administration, Green would not be the final decision-maker.
That would fall to Mattis, who said during his January confirmation hearing that he would not reverse those policies unless a service secretary could demonstrate that they had created a problem.
"As someone who proudly served our nation in the Army with men and women of all backgrounds and beliefs, my concern is nothing more than building the best Army with the best soldiers who are willing to prepare, fight and, if necessary, die for our country regardless of their political beliefs, ethic background, religious beliefs or sexual orientation," Green said in his statement. "Every American has the right to defend their country."
The issue, advocates say, has more to do with perception.
The concern is that even if LGBT members continue to be allowed to serve openly, having an anti-LGBT service secretary could create a negative command climate, said David Stacy, the government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign.
If confirmed, Green would replace Obama-era Army Secretary Eric Fanning, the first openly gay service secretary.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT