Soldiers discriminated against by state laws could seek transfers under proposed Army policy

The military is circulating a draft policy change that would clarify that soldiers can request to relocate if they believe state or local laws discriminate against them based on sex, sex, religion, race or ethnicity. pregnancy, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the plans.

The guidelines, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, are far from final and would require the approval of Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. But if passed, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the force amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ and restrictive birth control laws in conservative-leaning states, where the military makes most of his business.

The policy would ostensibly penalize soldiers who say certain states are too racist, too homophobic, too sexist or otherwise discriminatory to live in safely and comfortably.

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“Some states are becoming untenable; there’s an increase in hate crimes and an increase in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told “To serve this country, people need to be able to do their jobs and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate large numbers of military.”

If finalized, the new rules would clarify the situations that would qualify a soldier for so-called humanitarian reassignment. At present, these rules are vague but are used primarily for soldiers who are experiencing family issues that cannot be resolved by “leave, correspondence, power of attorney, or assistance from family members or other parts”, according to the regulations of the army.

The updated guidelines, which sources say were drafted in response to several state statutes but before a potential Supreme Court draft ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade being disclosed would indicate to commanders that they can use compassionate reassignment specifically to withdraw discriminated troops. of their places of employment.

The adjustment comes from a MILPER message, which is an internal tool for Army leaders and planners to issue policy clarifications, although the guidelines have yet to be fully developed through the process of policy planning or informed senior leaders, according to an army source.

“The military does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a spokesperson for the service, told in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers can request humanitarian reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring that the needs of soldiers and families are taken care of and maintaining a quality of high life.”

According to a 2015 study by Rand Corp., approximately 6% of service members are gay or bisexual and 1% are transgender or non-binary. That number is likely low, given that the survey was only conducted four years after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and before transgender troops could openly serve. Gen Z troops, the latest generation beginning to fill the ranks, are also much more likely to identify as LGBTQ.

It is unclear whether the military’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade was canceled. This language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a way for some to advocate for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

Sources who reviewed drafts of the potential policy had differing interpretations of what the change would mean. In practice, however, reassignment to a new facility would not happen overnight, and it would be nearly impossible for a woman to find out she is pregnant, get a transfer approved by her command, complete the move and then be able to seek different reproductive care. during a pregnancy.

Last week, Army Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, the service’s leader, told lawmakers the force was considering a response to the end of Roe v. Wade, although it is unclear if this is a separate policy being considered by Army planners.

“The answer is yes, we are developing policies to ensure that we take care of our soldiers appropriately,” Grinston told a subgroup of the House Appropriations Committee. “There are plans if it were to be canceled, but it would be a decision for the Secretary of the Army to decide the policy.”

However, the policy change shared with was drafted in April, weeks before a draft decision was announced reversing the landmark abortion decision, according to an Army official with direct knowledge of the situation.

At least 13 states have so-called trigger laws that will immediately ban abortion if and when Roe v. Wade is canceled. Other GOP-controlled states are expected to follow suit with similar legislation. Meanwhile, some state lawmakers are considering restrictions on birth control, such as IUDs and Plan B. Some officials, like Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, have not ruled out an outright ban on birth control. Idaho State Senator Brent Crane, who is the state’s Deputy Majority Leader, said he would be open to legislation banning certain birth control methods.

Currently, Tricare, which covers 9.6 million soldiers and veterans, covers IUDs, contraceptive diaphragms, prescription contraceptives and surgical sterilization, all of which could be severely reduced if states go ahead with it. banning or limiting birth control, as many service members and their families receive medical care. paid by Tricare off base.

The Army’s review of a policy to protect soldiers from discriminatory laws is part of a broader Department of Defense campaign to begin protecting the military from increasingly divisive laws and rhetoric state legislators.

Multiple Department of Defense and veterans’ advocates sources told that other services are considering similar policies, but it’s unclear how far those discussions have gone.

The closest a service has had to a direct challenge to the rise of potentially discriminatory policies emanating from state legislatures came in April, when the Air and Space Force pledged to provide medical and legal resources to troops who are affected by laws “being proposed and passed”. in states across the Americas that may affect Airmen, Guardians, and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways,” according to a press release from the services.

Texas has the largest soldier population in the nation, home to the Army’s largest installation, Fort Hood. It is also the home of Fort Bliss, as well as having the second largest National Guard force in the nation. The military also has major bases in Georgia and North Carolina, as well as a constellation of other smaller bases in conservative southern states, including Florida.

Some Republicans have clung to the culture wars in the hope that further action will energize their base ahead of the midterm elections and the next presidential election.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely considered a GOP frontrunner in case Donald Trump doesn’t run for the White House again, signed what critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.”

This policy prohibits teachers from making references to sexual orientation or gender identity to students between kindergarten and third grade. Gay teachers fear that even mentioning their spouses could get them fired or land them in the middle of a nasty political brawl at school board meetings that have become a staple of right-wing media.

In April, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a law to prevent transgender children from playing on sports teams that conform to their gender identity and to prevent schools from teaching about race. Kemp also signed a policy that bans books deemed offensive from school libraries and gives parents tools to file complaints.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on the public to report parents of transgender children to child protective services if those children receive gender-affirming care.

“What we see across the board is a small group of elected officials trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. Not only are they doing this to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our military ,” Jacob Thomas, director of communications for Common Defense, a progressive defense organization, told “[Troops] cannot be forced to live in places where they are not considered fully human.”

— Steve Beynon can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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