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News ::
Final Battle Over Controversial General's Promotion, NTAC Urges Action (english)
31 Oct 2003
After a delay of more than a year, the Senate Armed Services Committee has forwarded the nomination of Major General Robert T. Clark to the full Senate for confirmation. The decision drew disbelief and a call for action from the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC).
After a delay of more than a year, the Senate Armed Services Committee has forwarded the nomination of Major General Robert T. Clark for promotion to Lieutenant General to the full Senate for confirmation. The decision was made in a closed-door meeting. Clark commanded Fort Campbell, KY where PFC Barry Winchell was beaten to death in 1999 because fellow soldiers thought he was gay. The decision to send Clark's promotion to the Senate floor drew disbelief and a call for action from the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), which had repeatedly requested that the general's promotion be pulled from further consideration.

"The decision by the Senate Armed Services Committee is nothing short of stunning," said NTAC Chair, Vanessa Edwards Foster. "This is a shining example of callous disregard for Barry Winchell, or for anyone not considered the conservatives' brand of 'heterosexual.' It's typical of this administration's animosity towards GLBT America."

Clark has been subject of much controversy for his apathy toward the homophobic harassment that Barry Winchell faced in the weeks leading to his death. Winchell fell in love with a pre-operative transsexual, Calpernia Addams, who performed at the Connection - one of Nashville's famed nightclubs known for its drag performances - just an hour down the road from the army base.

After a night of drinking, PVT Calvin Glover beat Winchell to death, egged on by PVT Justin Fisher.

Reached by phone, Addams expressed her dismay at the Committee's action. "On July 4th of 1999," she recalled, "my boyfriend PFC Barry Winchell was murdered in his sleep by fellow soldiers at the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky. Major General Robert T. Clark was in charge of Fort Campbell at the time. The problems on base were longstanding – general low morale, inadequate access to healthcare and training, as well as the problems that created the environment for Barry's murder. These things do not happen overnight,” Addams added, “and as any officer will tell you, a commander is ultimately responsible for every action under his command. General. MG Clark has a responsibility to own up to his failure at managing the people under his command at Fort Campbell, and does not deserve another star.

“I ask those who will decide, please do not reward this incompetence. And please, put someone in the White House who would not rescue and promote such a man,” Addams finished. “We owe it to Barry and every good soldier who is willing to lay down a life for this country and defend the freedom that we all deserve."

Patricia and Wally Kutteles, the parents of Barry Winchell, contend that Clark failed to address anti-gay harassment during his command at Fort Campbell. MG Clark contends that there was no problem with homophobia during his tour of duty, despite the murder, other antigay assaults, and a record number of GLBT discharges.

Following the Committee's action on October 23rd, the Kutteleses stated, "Today, despite ample evidence of Major General Robert T. Clark's leadership failures, the Senate Armed Services Committee took an unfortunate first step in confirming his promotion to Lieutenant General, the Army's second highest rank. We believe the Committee's action is a grave mistake. Those Senators who voted in favor of MG Clark's promotion have placed the political gains of a failed leader ahead of America's families. The harassment of our children must not find harbor in the world's most effective military. The sting of anti-gay animus has been felt far outside Fort Campbell and beyond the reaches of MG Clark."

"The full title of the military policy on GLBT service members is Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass," said Robyn Walters, Chair of the NTAC Veteran Affairs Subcommittee, "No one should be placed in a position of military leadership who isn't sensitive to the needs of the thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersexed members of the armed forces. Personal safety is a primary need. Until such time as this flawed policy is rescinded by Congress, allowing GLBT people to serve openly, the services and Congress have a responsibility to ensure that the military leadership lives up to the Don't Pursue, Don't Harass policy."

NTAC joins the 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 Michigan's Triangle Institute in opposing MG Clark's promotion.

MG Clark's nomination is expected reach a Senate vote this week. To tell your senators to oppose his nomination, find their contact information at Call now and tell the staff that you oppose the promotion of Major General Robert Clark to Lieutenant General.

- 30 -

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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