- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who is the latest candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been embraced as “another pro-gay moderate” by a national homosexual rights group.

“Wesley Clark has been an inspiring, effective leader and a voice of reason on the national scene for quite some time,” says Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Like most Americans, he supports basic fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” Mr. Foreman says. “We welcome his entry into this already crowded and pro-gay field of Democratic candidates, and look forward to his contribution to the debate on the critical issues facing our nation and our world.”

Evidence of Mr. Clark’s homosexual-friendly views are his support for a review of the military’s decade-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the task force says. In June, Mr. Clark told NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert the policy “absolutely” should be changed.

“I don’t think it works,” said the former supreme allied commander in Europe who led the NATO forces in the war in Kosovo. “Essentially, we’ve got a lot of gay people in the armed forces — we always have had, always will. And I think that … we should welcome people that want to serve.”

Mr. Clark, a Catholic who was raised a Southern Baptist, also came out in support of “gay civil unions” and doesn’t “believe gays to be inherently sinful,” the task force says.

David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, another major homosexual rights group, says he has heard Mr. Clark make several favorable statements, as well as a few that seemed “slightly problematic.”

On the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, he told NBC’s “Today” show that “the military needs to decide for itself, but the military is clearly under civilian control,” says Mr. Smith. He supports civil unions but opposes civil “marriage” for homosexual couples.

“To be fair, we’re taking a wait-and-see attitude toward all the candidates,” says Mr. Smith. “Gen. Clark’s positions will be examined closely as the campaign unfolds … but he definitely seems to be on the right track.”

Sheri A. Lunn, spokeswoman for the task force, says that of all the Democratic presidential candidates, only one — Carol Moseley Braun — is supportive on all 11 issues important to homosexual activists. Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, supports 10 issues but not for homosexual “marriage.”

A June survey taken by the task force of more than 1,000 people who attended Gay Pride events in New York, Los Angeles and the District found that 72 percent plan to vote in the Democratic primaries.

Among those polled, Mr. Dean was the most popular candidate, with 33 percent support of these potential voters. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, was second with 10 percent, while the remaining candidates received support in the single digits.

In a report conducted before Mr. Clark entered the race, the task force says the nine Democratic candidates offered “the most progressive set of policy positions on issues of concern to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in U.S. presidential-election history.”

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