Air Force offers help to families impacted by anti-LGBTQ laws

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In a usual move, the US Air Force recently advised its service members that it will support their families with medical and legal assistance if they are affected by dozens of new state laws restricting LGBTQ rights, including the relocation of families if the need arises.

The aid was widely publicized in a March 24 press release that initially attracted little attention. He announced a de facto extension of human rights protections for these military families as states moved to ban gender-affirming care for minors, restrict teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools and to ban trans athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams. .

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“Various laws and legislation are being proposed and passed in states across the Americas that may affect Airmen, Guardians, and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways,” the press release reads. “The Air Force Department has medical, legal and other resources to support Airmen, Guardians and their families.”

These resources include free counseling for families trying to understand new state laws, as well as mental help available at military medical facilities.

The Exceptional Family Member program, which provides such resources to families with “special needs” and allows personnel to be reassigned to different states with safer environments for their families, has been around for decades. But in the current political climate, a category has been added for families to seek to use the program.

“Airmen and Custodians who wish to resolve assignment issues due to local laws or legislation should engage their chain of command and respective assignment teams with PSAC,” a door-to-door reporter told The Washington Post. word of the Air Force, Captain Tanya Downsworth. “Family members receiving gender-affirming treatment, or at risk of receiving such treatment, can and should use the Exceptional Family Member Program to assist with any change in station movement, regardless of the location.”

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This decision was applauded by LGBTQ advocates. Lindsay Church, executive director and co-founder of Minority Veterans of America and a non-binary, queer Navy veteran, said concerns about a family member’s safety pose a threat to national security.

“Military members with LGBTQ family members who fear for themselves and their family’s safety bear an undue burden because of these hateful policies,” Church said. “We hope that the Air Force providing legal protections to these service members and alternatives to duty stations where service members may be harmed by these policies will inspire other service branches to provide similar protections.”

“A,” the 34-year-old wife of a South Texas veteran and mother of three children, two of whom identify as LGBTQ (including one who is transgender), echoed that sentiment. She hopes other branches of the military and veterans also receive resources; her husband was a Marine and her family does not have access to Air Force support.

The family relies on military health care, including for their trans child, said A, who is identified by her first initial for fear of legal reprisals in Texas for speaking openly about her trans child.

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The family are growing nervous after a February 22 directive from Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) ordering the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate ‘child abuse’ on any gender-affirming care that families and institutions provide to trans people. children.

On March 11, an Austin judge issued a temporary injunction against the order, calling it an unconstitutional overreach and a violation of the democratic process. The injunction blocked investigations and prosecutions against the families, but soon after, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) tweeted that he had appealed, saying the injunction was “frozen”. By then, at least nine such investigations had been opened.

Despite the murky legal status of these investigations, the effect has already been chilling, said A.

“Teachers were terrified of having to report their students,” she said. “Religious leaders have even been called upon to denounce families, including military families. So the implications have certainly trickled down to military health care.

She added that her family has “been able to discuss with our provider the options that are still available through military health care, and not all of them are anymore.” She declined to say whether her child was receiving gender-affirming health care.

Given the legal situation in Texas, she and her husband became increasingly concerned, A said, about their identity and care. She taught her three children to say they won’t talk unless their lawyer is present — “a conversation you’d rather not have with a kid in elementary school,” she said.

For Heather-Lynne Van Wilde, who served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2005, publicly stated support from the Air Force would have made a big difference in her service, she said. She transitioned after her tenure in the military, which was during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy instituted under the Clinton administration. At the time, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members were prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation or discussing same-sex relationships while on duty. (The policy did not apply to trans service members.)

“I was forced to live two lives: the ‘male’ airman the Air Force believed it had signed a contract with and the authentic self that I was when I was in a safe place,” he said. she stated. “One wrong move, the wrong person finding out what I was, would set me up for a discharge on short notice.”

Had she been able to serve with current military cultural mores and policies, she “certainly could have transitioned into the military, and certainly would have,” she said, adding that it would have reduced or prevented “a number of the mental and neurological health issues that I have now that make up a large part of my military disabilities.”

As HuffPost notes, the Air Force’s latest move is “surprisingly bold,” given that the Air Force, as part of the federal government, has no right to interfere with state laws. Most schools attended by Air Force family members, for example, are governed by state laws. But the Air Force’s goal, leaders say, is to be “proactive” in making sure families are aware of available help.

Kristen, a married lesbian mother and Army Reservist in Brooklyn, says she hopes other branches of the military will follow: A recent law in Florida made her afraid to go to an upcoming family reunion, she said. The new law, called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, prohibits teaching kindergarten through third grade students about sexual orientation or gender identity and gives parents the right to sue districts. schools for lessons they don’t like.

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Her son is 6 months old and she fears what could happen to her family, given the increasingly hostile rhetoric against same-sex couples. She asked to be identified by her first name only because she works for the government and is not authorized to speak about politics.

“Families need protection,” she said. The Department of Defense “protects soldiers on active duty in other countries; now you have to apply this in the states of our country.

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