LGBT groups 'heartened' by Mattis' testimony

LGBT groups 'heartened' by Mattis' testimony
© Greg Nash

Groups that advocate for LGBT troops were said they were assuaged by retired Gen. James Mattis’ Thursday testimony suggesting he won’t roll back rules set by the Obama administration allowing such service members to serve openly.

“We are heartened by Gen. Mattis’ stated commitment during his testimony not to reverse the profound progress we have made in ensuring LGBT service members and their families are able to serve our nation with pride,” American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn said in a joint statement.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender troops serving openly last summer and the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned gay service members from serving openly also came during the Obama administration.

Outside groups had been worried that Mattis, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE’s pick to head the Department of Defense, would be hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops based on past statements he’s made blasting civilian leaders with a “progressive agenda” imposing “social change” on the military.

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He was pressed on those issues by multiple Democrats during Thursday’s confirmation hearing and ultimately said he would not roll back the changes unless a service secretary tells him there is a proven issue with the policy.

At first, he demurred when asked if gay troops were undermining the military’s lethality. But asked later by Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-Hawaii) whether there’s anything innate about being a woman or identifying as LGBT that would prevent someone from serving in a lethal force, Mattis flatly said, “No.”

That answer made Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, optimistic about Mattis’ commitment to upholding the existing policies. Prior the hearing, Belkin had said he expected Mattis to “take aim” at women and LGBT troops.

“When Gen. Mattis agreed that women and LGBT troops can contribute to the military's lethality, he was supporting the long standing argument, backed up by a solid consensus in the research as well the experiences of foreign militaries, that inclusive policy promotes readiness,” Belkin said in a statement Thursday.

In their statement, Broadway-Mack and Thorn said that after Thursday’s hearing, they look forward to working with Mattis.

“Because questions had been raised about his commitment on this front, uncertainty in the future had given our military families great cause for concern,” they said. “His comments today give us hope for a working relationship between our organizations and the new Defense Department leadership. If confirmed, we look forward to working with Gen. Mattis in supporting our nation’s brave heroes and their families.”

They also pledged to hold the incoming administration accountable.

“We are committed to holding the incoming administration accountable and ensuring all who serve, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the support and respect they need and deserve,” they said.