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Three-star fiasco: a potential promotion for an antigay Army general shows just how little gay fights issues mean in the military. (Military).

When word came in mid October that Army major general Robert Clark could be promoted to lieutenant general this year, gay and human rights advocates were outraged. Clark, who was in charge at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1999 when gay soldier Barry Winchell was beaten to death, was nominated for the promotion by no less than the commander in chief himself, President Bush.

"The nomination itself is a clear departure from the way the Clinton administration handled Clark," said Steve Ralls, director of communication for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gays and lesbians in the military. "It would have been customary to award him his third star when he left Fort Campbell [in 2000]. The Clinton administration did not do that."

There was a reason for that, say gay and human rights advocates. "One of the basic principles in the military environment is that commanders lead by example," Rails said. "Clark set no example [of tolerance] at Fort Campbell for his soldiers." In fact, Clark denied that Winchell's murder was a hate crime, initially calling it an "altercation," although Winchell had been attacked in his sleep. Clark never publicly condemned the murder and refused requests to meet with Winchell's parents. In 2000 the Army discharged 161 gay men and lesbians from Fort Campbell--28% of the number of Army dismissals that year. "We don't believe he deserves a third star," said Winchell's mother, Patricia Kutteles.

"General Clark must be held accountable," Ralls added. His potential promotion "means the military and the Administration are not taking antigay harassment seriously." Winnie Stachelberg, political director at the Human Rights Campaign, agreed, though she hesitated to pin the blame entirely on Bush. "The Pentagon is a very different culture, and they don't see [Clark's] culpability as an issue the way that we on the outside do," she said. "I'm afraid that was the Pentagon under [both] Clinton and Bush."
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Author:Wildman, Sarah
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 26, 2002
Words:318
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