State Sen. Mark Green sits at his desk in the chamber in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2013. Green would succeed the first openly gay man to hold the post of Army secretary. (Erik Schelzig/AP)
WASHINGTON — A Tennessee state senator who has criticized federal attempts to bar discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in workplaces and businesses has been nominated to be President Donald Trump’s next secretary of the Army.
The selection of Mark E. Green, a former Army flight surgeon who served as a medic for a special-operations team that captured Saddam Hussein, would be a sharp U-turn in civilian leadership of the Army. The last Army secretary, Eric Fanning, was the first openly gay man to hold that post.
Green’s nomination, which had been anticipated for weeks, had drawn criticism from LGBT advocates even before Trump officially named him Friday. On Tuesday, the American Military Partner Association, the largest organization of LGBT military families, accused Green of making “a shameful political career out of targeting LGBT people for discrimination.”
Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the association, said, “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.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement Friday, said he supported Green’s nomination. “Mark will provide strong civilian leadership, improve military readiness and support our service members, civilians and their families,” Mattis said.
As a Tennessee state legislator, Green made a number of controversial assertions about LGBT rights, including one before the Chattanooga Tea Party last year. During that appearance, Green offered up then-President Barack Obama’s opposition to laws meant to stop transgender people from using the bathrooms of their stated gender as the kind of government action from which armed citizens should protect themselves.
“We are back to where the country was at its beginning, and it’s the armed citizen who will defend this nation,” Green said then. “And there’s something else that we’ve got to protect ourselves from, and it is an overreaching federal government. The notion that Mr. Obama thinks that he can tell the state of Tennessee who can go into a men’s bathroom or a women’s bathroom is absurd.”
During that same appearance, Green was asked what military rank and file thought about “the social revolutions being imposed upon them by this government.” He responded: “If you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease.”
Green graduated from West Point in 1986 with a degree in economics and began his military career as an infantry officer. He had three combat tours in the Middle East and received a Bronze Star, the White House noted in its announcement of his nomination.
If approved by the Senate, Green would succeed Fanning, whose appointment by Obama was widely viewed as a breakthrough for gay servicemen and servicewomen. Until the 2011 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, those members of the military either served in secret or were forced out if their sexual orientation was discovered.
The nomination of Green comes after Vincent Viola, Trump’s previous nominee for the position, withdrew in February, saying he could not separate himself from his businesses enough to avoid a conflict of interest. Viola is owner of the Florida Panthers NHL team.