- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 1999

Hillary Rodham Clinton said her husband’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has “failed” and that she favors homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces.
“I don’t believe it’s the policy we should have in our military,” the New York Senate candidate said at a New York news conference Thursday. “I believe fitness to serve in the military should be based on conduct, not sexual orientation.”
The White House backed off the notion that the policy is solely President Clinton’s.
” Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is not the policy the president initially proposed. It is the policy he was able to get the Congress to agree to,” White House spokesman Barry Toiv said.
Mrs. Clinton’s statements came after reports Thursday that she made similar remarks and also backed “same-sex unions” in comments at a private fund-raiser hosted by homosexual supporters.
During the $120,000 fund-raiser at the studio of artist Ross Bleckner, Mrs. Clinton “described don’t ask, don’t tell’ as a failure,” according to the New York Times.
Jeffrey Soref, a co-chairman of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a member of the Democratic National Committee, organized the fund-raiser.
Bob Maginnis, who served on the 1993 Pentagon task force that wrote the policy, criticized Mrs. Clinton who remains enmeshed in her dual roles as candidate and first lady and the president for playing politics with the issue.
“As a political candidate, she is pandering to the homosexual community in New York City. As the first lady of this country she ought to respect her husband’s decision,” said Mr. Maginnis, who now serves as a director of the Family Research Council. “It is unfortunate that they are using the military again as the Ping-Pong ball to extract political favoritism from people who have deep pockets.”
The first lady, who also has said she opposed her husband’s pardon for members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group and has declared that Jerusalem should be the permanent capital of Israel, defended her independence Thursday.
“I’m going to be a candidate for the Senate of New York,” she said. “I’m going to be stating my positions that will be from time to time different from the White House.”
While Mrs. Clinton has stopped short of saying she favors homosexual “marriage,” she told 100 supporters at the Soho section fund-raiser Tuesday that “same-sex unions should be recognized and that same-sex unions should be entitled to all the rights and privileges that every other American gets.”
Her likely Republican opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has opposed same-sex “marriage,” despite a generally pro-homosexual record.
While Mr. Giuliani is well-liked by many homosexual groups and aides say he has criticized the “don’t ask” policy in the past, he sidestepped questions about it during his regular City Hall news conference Thursday.
“It is something I’d have to look at,” he said.
While Mrs. Clinton’s remarks pleased homosexual activists, they were not enough to cement support from the state’s most powerful gay group, which has ties to Mr. Giuliani.
“We have not decided if we are going to get involved in the race or who we would endorse,” said Empire State Pride Agenda director Matt Foreman.
The group endorsed Mr. Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and he headlined its $1 million fund-raiser in October. The group endorsed Democrat Charles E. Schumer’s successful 1998 campaign in its first endorsement of a Senate candidate. Homosexuals make up about 8 percent of the New York City vote and 4 percent of the electorate statewide.
Both Mr. Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton also said Thursday they plan to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which could anger some homosexuals because it excludes the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization.
Mr. Giuliani has marched in the parade in the past. When he marched in a gay pride parade in New York this year, he was heckled by some homosexual activists.
Mr. Clinton angered many homosexual groups when he backed off a campaign promise similar to Mrs. Clinton’s remarks Thursday and agreed to “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a compromise in 1993.
Mr. Clinton had moved in his first month in office to lift completely the ban on homosexuals. But he ran into a torrent of opposition from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Negotiations began and what emerged was a new policy that retains the military’s prohibition against engaging in homosexual conduct on the grounds that it damages good order and discipline.
Under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, homosexuals serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private. An admission to being homosexual is grounds for discharge on the assumption that such an admission means the person does, or intends to, engage in prohibited sexual conduct.
The new policy also ended the practice of asking would-be recruits if they are homosexual.
Homosexuals groups launched a series of lawsuits attacking the policy’s constitutionality. To date, five federal appeals courts have upheld the military’s policy. The Supreme Court has refused to intervene four times.
Defeated in the courts, the homosexual movement shifted emphasis last year to challenging the way the Pentagon enforces the ban.
Homosexual activists claim enforcement results in “witch hunts.” But the Defense Department has reviewed enforcement on two occasions and issued statements saying “for the most part, the policy has been properly applied and enforced.”
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which aids personnel targeted under the ban, said that 1,149 persons were discharged last year for violating the ban, compared with 667 in 1994.
Ban proponents say the numbers are higher because homosexuals are no longer screened out at induction and that attrition rates are generally up among enlisted personnel.
The Pentagon changed enforcement procedures in August, taking some power from local commanders, after homosexual groups complained of “witch hunts.”
Commanders now need approval from senior civilians if they want to begin a “substantial investigation” into whether a person has stated he is a homosexual.

Rowan Scarborough and Andrew Cain contributed to this report.

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