The successor to the first openly gay secretary of the Army will likely be an anti-LGBT legislator from Tennessee.
Donald Trump is expected to nominate state Sen. Mark Green of Tennessee for the post, the highest civilian job in the Army, Nashville newspaper The Tennessean reports. Trump has yet to make a formal announcement, but sources told the paper one will come soon.
Green, a Republican, is the lead sponsor of a bill that would prohibit government entities in Tennessee from taking “discriminatory action against a business based on that business’s internal policies.” It’s basically aimed at keeping cities and the state from enforcing antidiscrimination policies when making contracts with private businesses.
“You [wouldn’t be able to] have a provision in your contracting rule saying, ‘We’ll only contract with organizations that treat married same-sex couples equally. You couldn’t do that,” Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, told The Huffington Post. “Or you couldn’t say, ‘We’ll only subcontract with companies that have contraception as part of their health insurance.’ It’s not just LGBT [issues].” The bill passed the Senate in March and is now under consideration in the House.
Green is a physician, an Army veteran, and the CEO of AlignMD, an emergency room management company. A West Point graduate, he was an Army medic on the team that captured Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and he wrote a book about that mission, The Tennessean notes.
He would replace Eric Fanning, the first openly gay man to head any branch of the U.S. military. Fanning, appointed by President Barack Obama, stepped down when Obama’s term ended, and Robert M. Speer is serving as acting secretary until a Trump nominee is confirmed. Trump’s first nominee for the post, Florida Panthers hockey team owner Vincent Viola, withdrew because, he said, it would be too complicated for him to divest himself of business holdings that would pose a potential conflict of interest.
The American Military Partner Association did not welcome the news of Green’s likely nomination. “We are deeply concerned over reports that Mark Green will be nominated as secretary of the Army,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, the group’s president, in a press release. “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. 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.”
Trump’s nominee for Air Force secretary, former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, has also created concerns among LGBT advocates. Wilson, who is currently awaiting confirmation, had a strongly anti-LGBT voting record in Congress.
Green had earlier announced an intention to run for Tennessee governor in 2018, The Tennessean reports, and hired Darren Morris, state director for Trump’s presidential campaign, to chair the effort. If he becomes Army secretary, that will shake up the gubernatorial race. Another deeply anti-LGBT legislator, Sen. Mae Beavers, now says she will consider running. Beavers is behind two pending anti-LGBT bills: an anti-transgender bathroom bill as well as one that would assert the state’s right not to recognize same-sex marriages — something that would likely be found unconstitutional.