MT. PLEASANT, IOWA — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz told Iowa voters on Tuesday that he wants to reassess whether gays, lesbians, and transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military, saying the armed forces should not be treated “like a cauldron for social change” with the government “trying to pursue sexual identity politics.”
A 27-year veteran from Mt. Pleasant asked Cruz during a campaign stop Tuesday what he thinks about gay people serving in the military. Cruz responded, saying the Obama Administration’s “latest thing” is to expand the military to transgender people as well.
“How about we have the military focus on what its function is, which is hunting down and killing the bad guys before they hurt us?” he said before transitioning to talking about how servicemembers are having their “religious liberty” violated.
When pressed by reporters Wednesday about what exactly he would do as president given that Obama has consulted with military commanders who approve of lifting the ban on transgender people in the military, Cruz avoided the question. But he did not deny that he would bring back a ban on gays and lesbians in the military.
“One of the problems with the Obama Pentagon is that it’s been politicized,” he said. “When commanders speak with you privately, their perspective on the department, it’s different from what they say publicly… What I would do as commander-in-chief is listen to the expert judgement of our military leaders and deliver it in a context that isn’t politicized.”
Terry Jerrel, the veteran who asked Cruz the question during his Mt. Pleasant town hall, told ThinkProgress that he has known at least five servicemembers who were raped while serving in the military. As a result, he would like Cruz to “go farther” than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and call for a ban on gay people in the military.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell really gave the people what they want and it’s a political agenda,” he said. “We don’t want gays in the military. Our mission is to fight, destroy, and kill and to serve other nations.”
CREDIT: Kira Lerner
When asked if he would like to see Cruz enact a firm ban on gay people serving in the military, Jerrel responded: “Absolutely.” He added that he’s a Christian and loves everyone, but prohibiting them from service would be in their best interest to protect their safety.
In 2011, Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy that he said forced openly gay and lesbian people to “lie about who they are.” Before the policy was announced in 1993, there had been an outright ban on gay people in the military.
But unlike Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which was passed by Congress, the ban on transgender people is military policy. In July, the military announced it would allow transgender people to serve openly beginning in 2016. Announcing the plan, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter explained that “current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions.” He recognized that despite the ban, transgender soldiers are currently serving and are “being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach.”
The decision was supported by gay rights groups and the American Medical Association, which adopted a resolution opposing the military’s exclusion of transgender individuals from service. A recent study also found that the costs of caring for transgender troops would be “negligible.”