Advocates for gays and lesbians serving in the military are displeased with President Donald’s Trump’s decision to replace the first openly gay Secretary of the Army with a Southern Baptist state lawmaker who has sponsored or supported legislation criticized as discriminatory against gays.
Last Friday Trump announced the nomination of Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green, a former Army doctor and West Point graduate popular among Tea Party Republicans, to replace Obama appointee Eric Fanning.
Green, a member of Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tenn., recently sponsored a carefully worded bill to bar government entities from taking “discriminatory action” against a company based on the company’s internal policies related to personnel or employee benefits. An opponent called the measure a “thin veneer” for religiously motivated discrimination against sexual minorities.
Critics fear if confirmed by the Senate, Green will seek to turn back the clock on gains for LGBT soldiers since the 2011 repeal of the Clinton administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays in the military.
“Mark Green is a perfect nominee for the people around President Trump who want to start a culture war in the United States military and who would bring back ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a public policy research institute that promotes the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the armed forces.
The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families and allies, said as a legislator Green “has made a shameful political career out of targeting LGBT people for discrimination.”
“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,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “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.”
In the past Green, chaplain of the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus, co-sponsored a bill requiring students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to use gender-segregated restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex shown on their birth certificates.
Last year he supported legislation allowing mental health practitioners to refuse to treat LGBTQ people, saying as a physician, he regularly refers patients seeking birth control to another doctor.
“I am allowed to refer that patient to another provider and not prescribe the morning-after pill based on my religious beliefs,” Green said in comments quoted by the Associated Press in February 2016. “This amendment allows another medical profession — therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists — to do the same thing.”
This year Green is a sponsor of another bill banning taxpayer-funded travel to California, introduced after the Golden State barred similar travel to Tennessee and three other states in reaction to laws deemed discriminatory against the LGBT community.
Grace Community Church, founded in 2005 with average worship attendance above 2,000, is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Tennessee Baptist Convention and Cumberland Baptist Association.
“I grew up in an Assemblies of God background,” Green said in a sermon at Grace Community Church in 2013. “I think I was in high school when we switched to Southern Baptist.”
The church’s executive pastor, Michael Bayne, is a 2003 graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Lead pastor Adam Dressler, who joined the church staff in 2014, previously served at The Journey, a St. Louis megachurch part of the Acts 29 church planting network.
Green, 52, was deployed three times overseas during his military service. He wrote a book in 2010 titled A Night with Saddam describing his experience as the Special Operations flight surgeon who treated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on the night of his capture in December 2003.
After his Army career, Green founded AlignMD, an emergency room management firm, and Two Rivers Medical Foundation, which sponsors medical missions to underserved countries such as Ethiopia, Cambodia, Haiti and Guatemala and operates free medical clinics in his hometown and in Memphis, Tenn.
As the top civilian leader for the U.S. Army, the Secretary of the Army has oversight of the 140-plus Army reserve installations worldwide and an approximately $150 billion budget.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Green “is well-suited” to serve at the Pentagon and that he “was proud to recommend him to President Trump for this distinguished position.”
Green’s nomination comes after Trump’s previous pick for the position withdrew his nomination in February. Vincent Viola, a billionaire and owner of the Florida Panthers NHL team, said he couldn’t separate far enough from his businesses to avoid a potential conflict of interest.