CRITICS RAIL AGAINST SENATE PROMOTION OF GEN. CLARK
On Tues., Nov. 18, the senate confirmed a promotion of Major General Robert T. Clark to the rank of Lieutenant General, the Army's second highest rank. The senate confirmation drew rancor from the nation's major Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Organizations, including the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC).
WASHINGTON DC - On Tuesday, November 18th, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm the promotion of Major General Robert T. Clark to the rank of Lieutenant General, the Army's second highest rank. The senate confirmation drew rancor from the nation's major Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Organizations, including the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC).
In 1999, Clark was the commander of Fort Campbell, Kentucky at the time PFC Barry Winchell was murdered when his fellow soldiers came to believe to him be gay. Winchell, whose death was subject of a Showtime Movie, "A Soldier's Story," had a romantic relationship with Calpernia Addams, a pre-operative transsexual woman.
Clark failed to take steps to deal with the homophobic climate of Fort Campbell, and obey and implement "Don't Ask Don't Tell" regulations. Clark's inaction in response to the anti-gay harassment suffered by Barry Winchell in the weeks leading up his death has been the subject of much controversy, and has been cited as a possible contributing factor to his murder.
"Instead of being considered for a "promotion," General Clark should have been court-martialed, and sent to prison for dereliction of duty!" fumed Cliff Arnesen, Vice President of the New England GLBT Veterans. "George W. Bush, and all those in the U.S. Senate who voted to confirm Clark's promotion, ought to be ashamed of themselves"
"With the many other more deserving three-star generals who were encouraged to retire after being told there was no promotion for them on the horizon," said Vanessa Edwards Foster, chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), "it's incomprehensible that this would be the candidate that the Bush administration deemed worthy of promoting.
"To the GLBT community of America, this sends a distinct message: Homophobic? Good job, soldier!" Foster commented, "the Bush Administration rewards apathy towards homophobia."
Despite Clark's claims that he was not aware of any homophobic incidents at Fort Campbell prior to the murder, there had been numerous reports of anti-gay harassment, graffiti, and assault at the post. A Department of Army Inspector General report also found Fort Campbell to be suffering from low morale, inadequate delivery of health care to soldiers and their families, and leader-condoned underage drinking.
Despite repeated requests, Clark refused to meet with Winchell's parents, Patricia and Wally Kutteles, but finally relented this spring on the eve of his appearance before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. During the meeting, Clark expressed regret over Winchell's death, but refused to accept any responsibility for the homophobic harassment that took place under his command at Fort Campbell.
"There is compelling evidence that the anti-gay harassment at Fort Campbell was pervasive," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) on the Senate floor Tuesday, "General Clark says he agrees with these findings, but that he was, nonetheless, not aware of a single instance of anti-gay harassment prior to the murder." "A brutal, bias-motivated crime is an extraordinary event in any community," Senator Kennedy continued, "the available evidence indicates that General Clark's response was not adequate."
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) expressed "utter disgust with the tragic and brutal beating that took the life of Pfc. Winchell at only 21 years old," adding, "my deepest sympathies are with his family."
NTAC was joined in opposition to Clark's nomination by Service Members Legal Defense Network, the Democratic National Committee, People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force, the National Organization for Women, American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Transgender American Veterans Association and a coalition of state-wide civil rights organizations, including Michigan's Triangle Institute.
Arnesen of the New England GLBT Vets noted, "the message conveyed to our Country's GLBT service members is that they will have to continue to serve in silence, as we have a Commander-in-Chief, who was quoted in the New York Times as saying: "I'm a Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Man.""
"We at NTAC are quite anguished with the Senate and especially with the Administration," commented NTAC chair, Foster. "The antipathy this decision communicates to all non-heterosexual servicemen and women, especially in time of war - in time of America's greatest need - is profoundly disappointing.
"This unwise decision speaks volumes."
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Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a §501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.
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