This week President Bush renominated Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark, the former commanding general of Fort Campbell, Ky., for the post of lieutenant general, the Army's second-highest rank. The nomination is now before the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the last session of Congress, the committee did not act on the nomination due to serious concerns about Clark's leadership before and after the gay-bashing murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell in 1999. A coalition of military watchdog and civil liberties groups opposed the nomination during the last session. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian service personnel, in conjunction with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other gay rights groups, has announced that it will again oppose the nomination.
C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN, said, "This issue is leadership. At any time, but especially in time of war, America needs strong leaders."
Winchell was murdered by fellow soldiers. Targeted because he was believed to be gay, he endured constant antigay harassment in the months leading up to his murder. Winchell reported the harassment to Clark's inspector general, who failed to act, sending him back through a chain of commanding officers who also harassed him. A report from the Department of Army inspector general found that Clark failed to order required training on "don't ask, don't tell" or to address antigay harassment.