The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Major General Robert T. Clark for promotion to lieutenant general, the Army's second-highest rank, U.S. Newswire reports. Clark's confirmation had been challenged by many gay activists because Clark was commander at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1999, when Pfc. Barry Winchell was bludgeoned to death by fellow soldiers who believed he was gay.
"There is not nor has there ever been during my time here a climate of homophobia on post," Clark said at a news conference prior to leaving Fort Campbell in 2000. But reports of antigay harassment under his command surfaced in light of Winchell's murder, including antigay graffiti and assault. Clark also implemented a policy at Fort Campbell that led to a record number of discharges of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members at the post, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
SLDN, along with Winchell's parents and a coalition of military, veterans, and civil liberties organizations, voiced strong opposition to Clark's promotion in Senate hearings and closed-door meetings with military officials. In an October statement, Winchell's parents, Patricia and Wally Kutteles, said, "The harassment of our children must not find harbor in the world's most effective military. The sting of antigay animus has been felt far outside Fort Campbell and beyond the reaches of Major General Clark."