'Family' Group Uses Chelsea Manning's Image In Anti-Trans Military Ad

The political ad implies that health care for trans service members would hurt defense spending.

An anti-LGBTQ group is using Chelsea Manning’s image in an ad campaign that urges lawmakers to vote against allowing openly transgender people to enlist in the military because they would be entitled to medical care.

The Family Research Council, which has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), tweeted the ad Thursday. It shows a photo of Manning next to one of a military jet. The ad, which can be viewed below, implies that the cost of providing health care to transgender service members would affect the amount spent on military equipment.

The photograph appeared to come directly from Manning’s social media accounts. The whistleblower came out as transgender in 2013, while serving prison time for providing WikiLeaks with sensitive government documents. After seven years behind bars, Manning had her prison sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama.

Manning posted the photograph to both her Instagram and Twitter accounts May 18. It was the first photograph of Manning that had been released to the public in years.

Meanwhile, the FRC’s tweet also suggested that the ads will appear in districts represented by Republican House members who voted against a proposal that would have denied medically necessary health care to transgender people in the military. Though the proposal had been expected to pass, the House rejected it, 214 to 209.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins doubled down on the sentiments relayed by the ad in a July 20 blog. The FRC, he wrote, had sent a letter to Congress urging them to reconsider allowing openly transgender people to enlist in the military now that their medical care had survived.

“Funding the military should not include funding sex-reassignment surgery or hormone therapy intended to change a person’s gender. Providing sex-reassignment surgery for service members is not a part of providing for the common defense,” the letter to Congress read, according to Perkins’ blog. “Indeed, it undermines the purpose of the military, which is to fight and win wars. In addition, even the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under [Obama’s] administration admitted that there are not sufficient studies to show that sex-reassignment surgery actually helps the patient.”

Under the Obama administration, the military lifted its longstanding ban on openly transgender service members in June 2016. Though the military had planned to allow recruits who identify as trans to enlist as of July 1, that move has been delayed for six months. A Pentagon spokeswoman told The New York Times that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wanted to allow military service leaders to “review their accession plans and provide input” while considering what effect adding trans recruits would have on “the readiness and lethality of our forces.”

Still, the FRC’s suggestion that the cost of a transgender service member’s healthcare would somehow affect the purchase of military aircraft is particularly ill-conceived. The U.S. has about 13,000 military aircraft. The next-largest aerial powers, China and Russia, have 2,000 to 3,000 military aircraft each, Business Insider reports.

HuffPost has reached out to the National Center for Transgender Equality and a representative of Manning and is awaiting comment.

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