Col. Kristin Goodwin quietly made history this month when she was appointed to become the commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Goodwin would be the first openly LGBT officer to occupy that position—and only the second woman to do so.
But there has been loud opposition to her historic appointment from the anti-LGBT fringe.
On March 21, Air Force Times first reported Goodwin’s appointment—which must go through a routine Senate confirmation first—and took stock of her credentials.
In addition to serving as the senior military assistant to the secretary of the Air Force, she was the first female commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, an Air Force Global Strike Command unit based in Louisiana. At the end of the piece was the detail: “Goodwin has a wife and two children.”
That biographical detail should not be controversial. Goodwin is just one of an estimated 70,000 plus service members who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to a Williams Institute estimate. But her sexual orientation has since drawn the ire of a small but vocal handful of socially conservative organizations, activists, and media outlets.
“BREAKING,” the LifeSiteNews headline declared on March 30, a full nine days after Air Force Times reported the appointment. “Lesbian with ‘wife’ and two kids selected to lead U.S. Air Force Academy.” The term “wife” never appeared outside of quotation marks in the article, which relayed the head of the Pray in Jesus Name Project’s complaints about Goodwin’s appointment.
And the popular far-right website WorldNetDaily trumpeted a letter from the chief of an Alabama organization called the Foundation for Moral Law—which, according to its “About” page, “exists to restore the knowledge of God in law and government”—telling President Trump’s new Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that Goodwin “does not set a proper moral example for youth” and claiming that she “demeans the institution of marriage” because she is “a lesbian who is ‘married’ to another woman.” (Again with the scare quotes.)
There is no indication, of course, that this opposition will have any effect on Goodwin’s appointment.
During his confirmation hearings, Mattis said, “I have never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.” Goodwin also has “outstanding service and leadership credentials,” as a U.S. Air Force Academy spokesperson told the Air Force Times. And Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—the policy prohibiting open military service by gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people—was repealed well over five years ago.
Goodwin has certainly made no secret of her spouse’s gender over the course of her career.
In a brief 2015 profile of Goodwin for the Houston-based LGBT magazine OutSmart, Col. Terrel S. Preston recalled that, when Goodwin took command of the Second Bomb Wing at a Louisiana base in 2014, her wife Kelly was “beaming with pride” at the ceremony. The married couple moved into the commander’s quarters, Preston noted, with a sign on the curb reading “Col. and Mrs. Goodwin.”
But the opposition to Goodwin’s new appointment from the religious right appears to be especially urgent because the Trump administration has not been systematically purged LGBT officials.
As The Daily Beast reported in February, the State Department’s decision to keep Randy Berry, the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons under the previous administration, angered anti-LGBT groups on the religious right who perceived him as a holdover of Obama’s “homosexual agenda.”
Trump has earned praise from the religious right for rescinding Obama’s transgender student guidance but he has been sorely criticized for keeping—or even considering the nomination of—openly LGBT officials.
Goodwin’s appointment is being perceived as a continuation of that trend. (In March, President Trump nominated Goodwin for the rank of brigadier general, which has historically been held by U.S. Air Force Academy commandants, as a Department of Defense press release noted.)As the LifeSiteNews article noted: “President Obama put a high priority on appointing open homosexuals and transgender (gender confused) individuals throughout his government, including the military—a practice social conservatives hoped would come to an end or at least be dramatically slowed down under Trump (despite the latter’s campaign boasts about being pro-LGBTQ).”
Goodwin’s position at the Air Force training academy also seems to have struck a nerve, based on the concerns that WND reported about the “moral example” she will set “for youth.” As Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Goodwin will oversee 4,400 cadets.
USAFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the attacks on Goodwin’s appointment.
Matthew Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT service members, praised Goodwin’s appointment in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“Col. Goodwin is an accomplished Air Force officer and is an excellent choice to become commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy,” he said. “Sexual orientation has no bearing on Col. Goodwin’s job performance, career success or selection for this post and it shouldn’t. She was selected because of her qualifications, accomplishments in the Air Force and the drive that every service member brings when he or she joins the military.”