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General in antigay incident approved for promotion

By |2003-10-30T09:00:00-05:00October 30th, 2003|Uncategorized|

By Bob Roehr

WASHINGTON,D.C. – The Senate Armed Service Committee approved the promotion of General Robert T. Clark on October 23 sending it on to the full Senate.
Clark was commander of Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1999 when Army private Barry Winchell was bludgeoned to death in an anti-gay assault while he slept. Two soldiers are serving time for the murder, and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and others have sought to hold Clark accountable as well.
An anti-gay attitude permeated the base at that time, drill sergeants made anti-gay remarks, similar graffiti was common. This happened despite the fact that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy meant to allow gays to serve in the military albeit not openly, had been in effect for six years.
Fearing for their safety, more than a hundred soldiers at Fort Campbell declared their own orientation and left the service in the months following Winchell’s murder. The Pentagon cleared Clark of any wrong doing in the incident, but SLDN called the report a whitewash.
SLDN and Winchell’s parents, Patricia and Wally Kutteles, have fought Clark’s promotion to three stars since it was first proposed last fall. Clark had resisted meeting with the parents but finally did so last May. At that meeting he took no responsibility for the atmosphere that contributed to her son’s death, Mrs. Kutteles said. She sees him as unfit for promotion.
The Committee again reviewed Clark’s record in a closed-door session and later, off to the side of the Senate chambers, agreed on a voice vote to forward the nomination. Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) noted the “unusually long period of time” and opportunity given to review the nomination. He had twice deferred a committee vote and supports Clark’s nomination.
Three Democratic Senators – Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii), Hillary Clinton (New York), and Ted Kennedy (Massachusetts) – were not present when the vote was taken, but indicated that they would have voted against the nomination, according to the Washington Post.
In a statement released by his office, Kennedy said, “I opposed General Clark’s nomination because it is far from clear that he acted appropriately in dealing with the brutal hate crime committed at Fort Campbell. We need to hold senior commanders accountable if they allow a climate of bigotry, intimidation and fear to exist on our nation’s military bases.”
SLDN executive director Dixon Osburn was “disappointed in the confirmation. We do not believe that General Clark’s record merits this promotion.” He was encouraged by the fact that it has been stalled by more than a year and he believes that has made all military officers take anti-gay incidents more seriously.
The Kutteles’ called the Committee’s action “a grave mistake. The harassment of our children must not find harbor in the world’s most effective military.”
Nominations ordinarily are handled along with other routine business on the Consent Calendar of the Senate. SLDN spokesman Steve Ralls said they are trying to get a separate vote on Clark, but at this point it seems “highly unlikely.” He anticipates the nomination will pass rather quickly.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.