Two days after a U.S. Army veteran took down a man spraying bullets in a Colorado gay club, a pair of Republican lawmakers released a report accusing the Biden administration of “weakening America’s warfighters” with wokeness, in part by “promoting LGBTQ+ individuality” in the Defense Department.
On Tuesday, ten GOP senators joined in, co-sponsoring a bill to cut off funding for a Pentagon diversity and inclusion measure. And outside of government, top conservatives from Senate candidates to media personalities to former Trump administration national-security leaders chose, in the wake of the massacre of five club patrons during a drag show, to up their rhetorical assaults on LGBTQ+ Americans, including those who serve in uniform.
Colorado’s latest mass-murder-by-AR-15—allegedly by a right-wing, conspiracy-obsessed 22-year-old—comes amid a rise in violence against LGBTQ+ Americans and a sustained campaign, led by right-wing Christian politicians, of rhetoric and legislation intended to isolate and demonize them. “Extremist candidates and their well-funded allies have spent at least $50 million in political ads spreading disinformation and attacking LGBTQ+ people — and especially transgender youth — in the 2022 midterm elections,” by Human Rights Campaign’s count.
LGBTQ+ people made up 12 percent of active duty troops in 2018, according to the most recent edition of RAND Corporation’s periodic health survey. A decade-plus of increasing legal and other support for LGBTQ+ troops—interrupted by President Trump’s 2019 order restricting service by trans people—has continued under the Biden administration.
In June, for example, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that HIV-positive personnel would no longer be restricted from deploying or commissioning. Every year during Pride Month, the Army and other branches share stories of LGBTQ+ service members and their impacts in the ranks. Last year, the Army produced an animated recruiting video that featured the daughter of a lesbian couple.
That recruitment effort was criticized in the “Woke Warfighters” report released Sunday by Republican Sens. Mark Rubio, of Fla., and Chip Roy, of Texas. “President Joe Biden and his administration are weakening America’s warfighters through a sustained assault fueled by woke virtue signaling,” the report said.
Rubio and Roy wrote that this signaling includes DOD’s support for LGBTQ+ troops, such as the policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and allow gender reassignment surgery while on active duty. The report similarly criticizes required training concerning those policies, as well as efforts to recruit from and support events of the LGBTQ+ community. The report also criticizes anti-racist training, and Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley for publicly supporting it.
The report arrives four months after Rubio’s “Restoring Military Focus Act,” which would eliminate the Pentagon’s year-old position of chief diversity officer—an advisor to the defense secretary—and prohibit federal funds from being used to re-establish any similar office. Introduced with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the act is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Ted Cruz, R-Tex., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., James Lankford, R-Okla., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Roger Wicker, R-Miss. (Cruz and Hawley are among the eight senators who voted to overturn 2020 presidential election results.) It is predicted to be one of many such measures to come when Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January.
GOP politicians and conservative think tankers have also argued that “wokeness” is to blame for recent recruiting shortfalls, although the Army’s top recruiting leader said last month that it doesn’t seem to be a factor.
Army leaders, particularly chief of staff Gen. James McConville have been careful to not take any clear stance on what McConville described as “politics.”
“For me, I’m staying out of the politics and that whole thought process,” McConville said in Defense One’s State of Defense virtual event in September.
“Mr. Fierro is rightly being hailed a hero, and we are grateful that he was able to use his Army training to save countless lives,” Army spokesperson Matt Leonard told Defense One.
Biden called Fierro to offer condolences and thank him for his life-saving actions, the Associated Press reported.