A Virginia House of Delegates candidate on Saturday said transgender servicemembers who undergo sex-reassignment surgery are "unfit for duty."
"We have our vice president saying that veterans are not special citizens. They are." said Tim Cox during the event that took place at KO Distilling in Manassas after he discussed his own service in the U.S. Navy. "And in some of these places they did not have the funds to do the exercises that some of these veterans needed to regain movement of their limbs and yet we're doing transgender reassignment surgery. That is gross and disgusting and that makes you unfit for duty."
The Washington Blade obtained an audio clip of Cox's comments hours after he made them.
Cox on Sunday defended his comments in a post on his Facebook page.
"I will always stand by our veterans and those who have sacrificed life and limb for our country," he wrote. "The loony left wants to use your tax dollars to pay for transgender reassignment surgeries. They want to neuter the military literally and figuratively while weakening our nation's line of defense. This is bad policy. It hurts people and the left knows it. That is why they are attacking me and other conservative leaders."
"Instead of paying for surgeries that make servicemembers unfit for duty, our tax dollars should help veterans who have sacrificed while actually on duty," added. "What nation, in its right mind, forces its citizens to pay to hurt people and its military?"
Cox on Monday once again defended his comments in an email to the Blade.
"I stand by my comments and want to make clear that I believe it is a gross mismanagement of taxpayer funds to render a servicemember temporarily unfit for duty," he said. "I do not (repeat, NOT) believe that people who identify as transgender are gross or disgusting."
"As a Christian, I believe all people are created equally and beautifully in God's image. He makes no mistakes," he added. "Because of that high and holy standard, the most loving thing I can do as a fellow sinner is to speak the truth in love. I do not want to offend another person, nor do I want to offend a righteous and loving God. I cannot take pride in or identify with my sin because Christ died on the cross in my place, forgave my sins, and has given me new life."
Cox told the Blade that "tax revenue is vital for our national defense and domestic tranquility." He added, however, that "forcing taxpayers to fund harmful surgeries — whether for sex change or abortion — is something I cannot do. Additionally, it is a disservice to our servicemembers who have sacrificed life and limb for our country to divert funds that could otherwise be used to help their family or improve their treatment."
Cox described the event as "a privately-funded and publicly-advertised event." He also noted his campaign posted his "comments in their entirety" on Facebook.
Cox is seeking the Republican nomination in the race for the seat that state Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County), who is running for lieutenant governor, announced she will vacate. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S., has represented the 13th District, which includes portions of Prince William County, in the House of Delegates since 2018.
President Biden on Jan. 25 signed an executive order rescinding his predecessor's ban on trans servicemembers.
The Virginia Values Act, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia's nondiscrimination law, took effect last July. Cox's comments also coincide with bills in Mississippi, Arkansas and elsewhere that specifically target trans youth.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.