San Antonio Express-News
Apr. 14—The Air Force has issued a reminder to service members that it has resources that can protect them from anti-LGBTQ state initiatives, such as the one in Texas that raised the possibility of child welfare investigations against parents with transgender children.
The guidance, issued by Air Force Undersecretary Gina Ortiz Jones, said the C
“We are closely tracking state laws and legislation to ensure we prepare for and mitigate effects to our airmen, guardians and their families,” Jones said, using “guardians” as the official shorthand for members of the U.S. Space Force. “Medical, legal resources, and various assistance are available for those who need them.”
“The health, care and resilience of our personnel and their families is not just our top priority — it’s essential to our ability to accomplish the mission,” she said, according to a news release.
Jones is a San Antonio native and Air Force veteran who is gay and served in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. Her message seemed at least partly a response to this year’s order by Gov. Greg Abbott that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigate parents providing gender-affirming care to their transgender children.
Issued in February, Abbott’s directive cited an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton that said such care, which includes hormone therapy and has been sanctioned by the nation’s mainstream medical associations, constitutes child abuse.
Before the Third Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the state on March 22 from carrying out the policy until lawsuits against it are resolved, Texas Child Protective Services had investigated at least nine families.
A Pentagon-based Air Force spokeswoman, Ann Stefanek, noted Wednesday that there were no cases in which its troops had come under state scrutiny.
“We aren’t tracking any yet, but wanted to remind them there are existing programs in case they need them,” she said in an email. “Again, this was an attempt to remind them to reach out for help IF they experience issues.”
The Air Force, in a statement issued March 24, noted that “various laws and legislation are being proposed and passed in states across America that may affect LGBTQ airmen, guardians, and/or their LGBTQ dependents in different ways.”
If service members or their families need help “with screening, treatment, or mental health support for medical concerns, they should start with ( Air Force) medical facilities,” the statement said.
Jones said troops could use the Exceptional Family Member Program to help with medical, legal, and educational support for dependents as they move to new jobs and bases.
“As is the case with all of our family members, if the support a family member needs becomes unavailable, commanders can work to get the service member to an assignment where their loved ones can receive the care they need,” she said.
Base legal offices are another source of help navigating new and existing state laws, the Air Force statement said, adding, “While installation legal personnel cannot represent airmen, guardians or their families in court, they can provide vital advice and counsel.”
Personnel can seek additional support through their local Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Military and Family Life Counseling Program, or Military OneSource, which can be contacted day or night at (800) 342-9647.
Jones was twice defeated as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House seat representing Texas’ 23rd congressional district. In close races, she failed to dislodge incumbent Republican Will Hurd in 2018 and lost to GOP nominee Tony Gonzales in 2020.
President Joe Biden last year appointed her as the No. 2 civilian overseeing the Air Force.
She had deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an intelligence officer with the 18th Air Support Operations Group, backing close-air support missions, and after leaving the Air Force advised U.S. Army South’s 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. Jones joined the Defense Intelligence Agency as a member of U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany before eventually running for Congress.
Jones has been public about the difficulties she faced as an airman during the long-running compromise that modified an outright ban on gay troops but still saw thousands of them kicked out of the armed forces.
“I served in the Air Force and in Iraq under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Jones tweeted after the Supreme Court ruled two years ago that LGBTQ individuals are protected from job discrimination. “I know what it is like to face discrimination at the workplace.”
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