Wednesday, May 22

Gay support wavers for Clinton in ’96

Gay support wavers for Clinton in ’96

President may lose votes for waffling on issues, but GOP offers
no alternative

By Patrick Marantal

Daily Bruin Contributor

As the 1996 elections draw close, many members of the gay
community find themselves adrift in a hostile political sea.

Much of their alienation stems from conflict between a
traditional affinity with the Democratic Party and recent political
decisions by President Clinton which have estranged many members of
the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"There is a complacency in the Democratic Party for responding
to gay people’s concerns," said Peter Hammond, professor of
anthropology and chair of the Chancellor’s Task Force on lesbian,
gay and bisexual studies. "The Democrats know that they have our
vote because we have no place to go."

The net result, Hammond added, is that Clinton will continue to
receive lesbian and gay support as the "lesser of two evils."

Still, Clinton has suffered in the gay, lesbian and bisexual
community for his inconsistency in supporting issues of importance
to the community.

"Over and over, Clinton has missed the opportunity to be great,"
said Hammond, citing several instances where Clinton has faltered
on issues.

In particular, Clinton could have shown support for gay families
and gay marriages, and opposed state and local anti-gay
initiatives, Hammond maintained. Furthermore, he could have shown
more support by confronting the religious right’s anti-gay agenda,
he added.

But the issue which has most visibly demonstrated the rift
between Clinton and the gay community has been the military’s
policies toward gays.

Most notably among these is the military’s policy of excluding
gays from the armed forces. Prior to 1992, the Defense Department
actively searched out and prosecuted gays, seeking to discharge
them. This became a campaign issue for Clinton in 1992, who vowed
to eliminate the policy upon election.

But once elected, Clinton ran into a firestorm of opposition
over the issue, coming in large part from the military itself. What
resulted was a compromise, the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy,
which to many was simply a continuation of the old policy.

"Clinton ran and said it’s unconstitutional, but people in his
Defense Department defended it vigorously," said Jennifer Pizer,
the managing attorney of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education
Fund’s western office. "(The) government lawyers litigated
aggressively, and (the policy) is contrary to what has been
promised to us in the election."

And these broken promises have left members of the gay community

"In terms of the gay community, I think that he let a lot of
people down," said Ali Beck, a third-year theater student and
editor in chief of TenPercent, UCLA’s gay, lesbian and bisexual

But despite Clinton’s apparent failure in serving the homosexual
community, Beck attested that Clinton attempted to do his best with
what he had to work with.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle has been opposition from a
not-so-friendly Congress, which was hostile to Clinton even when
controlled by Democrats, Beck hypothesized.

"With the political climate, there was not much he (Clinton)
could have done," Beck said. "(For instance), if he had stuck to
his guns on the military ban, Congress would have solidified a ban
that would ultimately make it worse for the gay community."

In the wake of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, Clinton
now faces almost insurmountable difficulty from Republican
representatives, Pizer claimed.

Just this Saturday, Clinton signed the Military Appropriations
Bill, which had been amended by ultra-conservative Rep. Robert
Dornan (R-Calif.) to require the discharge of military personnel
infected with HIV.

While the military already has a policy keeping HIV-positive
troops far away from the hazards of combat, this amendment would
remove people from military employment even at the administrative
level, Pizer said.

While maintaining that it is a distressing policy, Pizer was not
shocked that Clinton signed the bill because of other provisions -
such as money directed to Bosnia.

However, since signing the bill, Clinton has instructed the
Pentagon to restrain itself in enforcing the provision, and has
told the Justice Department not to defend the provision if
challenged in court.

Despite Clinton’s wavering support for the gay community, both
students and experts alike feel that Clinton is the only option
left to them as a presidential candidate.

"Because there is nothing better and the only other alternative
is Clinton," said Darnell Grisby, a first-year undeclared student
and a member of the steering committee of the Gay and Lesbian
Association. "(He is) better than what the other side has (because)
the likely candidate on the Republican side will be
homophobic."Comments to [email protected]

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