In an incredibly unusual move, the Air Force wants to let its hundreds of thousands of employees know that it will provide families with medical and legal assistance if they are personally affected by new state laws that attack children. homosexuals and transgenders.
And if these service members feel they must leave these states altogether, for the sake of the mental or physical health of their children, the Air Force will also assist them in doing so.
The Air Force is the only branch of the US military to do so. Its leaders briefed staff late last month, both internally and A press releasethat they have several resources available to them if they need help navigating state anti-LGBTQ laws that may harm their families.
Specifically, Air Force leaders tell service members that military medical facilities are available to provide mental health support to them or their children should they need it at following new laws in states like Florida, where schools are banned from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation, or Texas, where the governor orders state officials to investigate parents of transgender children for child abuse.
They also tell service members that military legal personnel are available to provide free counseling to families trying to understand their legal protections in states targeting gay and transgender children.
The largest Air Force base in the world is also in Florida: Eglin Air Force Base.
“The health, care and resilience of our [Air Force] personnel and their families is not only our top priority – it is critical to our ability to accomplish the mission,” Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones said in a statement. “We are closely following state laws and legislation to ensure that we prepare for and mitigate the effects on our Airmen, our caretakers and their families. Medical, legal and various aid resources are available for those who need them.
Air Force leaders also tell personnel they can build on an existing program, the Exceptional Family Members Program, if they need to be reassigned to another state with a safer environment for their family. or their LGBTQ child. This type of transfer could apply, for example, to an Air Force member stationed in Texas and raising a transgender child who needs gender-affirming treatment like hormone therapy.
“As is the case with all members of our family, if the support a family member needs becomes unavailable, commanders can work to get the service member to a posting where their loved ones can receive the care they need. they need,” Jones said.
It’s a surprisingly bold move by Air Force leaders, despite the fact that it hasn’t garnered much press attention beyond Federal News Network. report it late last month. As part of the federal government, the Air Force has no right to interfere with state laws. But it’s clear its leaders are concerned that the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ laws and guidelines could harm the health and well-being of Air Force families based in those areas.
“The Department of the Air Force is putting practical policy and compassion behind an issue of great concern to the administration. Family readiness is the key to combat readiness,” said Lt. Gen. retired Bruce Wright, president of the Air & Space Forces Association, told HuffPost in a statement. “Caring for ALL Airmen, Guardians, and their families, regardless of their challenges, is a fundamental leadership principle and the department shows here a real and practical commitment.”
The Air Force actions come as Republicans have adopted a policy strategy of attacking gay and transgender children ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, have been at the forefront of this ugly push – both are likely 2024 presidential candidates – but they are not the first. only Republican leaders are rushing to pass laws making life even harder for LGBTQ youth.
At least a dozen states are now considering bills mirroring Florida law, dubbed by critics its “Don’t Say Gay” law. Oklahoma, Arizona, Iowa and Utah passed laws this year ban transgender children from playing sports consistent with their gender identity.
Not to be outdone, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) on Friday signed a law making it a crime, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison, for parents and doctors to provide gender-affirming care like hormone treatments to transgender minors. Ivey also signed a law prohibiting transgender children from using school restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, and a law limiting classroom discussions about gender and sexual orientation.
“These discriminatory policies, bills and laws cause real harm and distress to LGBTQ+ families,” said Delphine Luneau, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. “Like any good employer, the Air Force takes steps to support its service members and their families.”
Luneau added, “We hope that service members and their family members who are impacted by the wave of discriminatory legislation in many state legislatures will take advantage of the support services offered by the Air Force, and HRC will continue to work to the repeal of these terrible laws.
Most schools that operate on Air Force installations are part of local school districts, which means they are governed by state law, not federal law. But other Air Force children and youth programs, such as after-school sports teams, are not regulated by state authorities.
Air Force leaders have yet to receive any requests for legal assistance from personnel regarding the effects of these anti-LGBTQ laws, the Air Force spokeswoman said. , Laurel Tingley. They also don’t know if there has been an increase in the use of mental health services because they don’t track it.
For now, the Air Force’s goal is simply to let personnel know that their employer has their back if they need it, she said.
“The [Air Force] is proactive in ensuring our Airmen, Guardians and their families are aware of the assistance available as they explore their options,” Tingley said.