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social sciences

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Mixner, David (b. 1946)  
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But the victory did not compensate for the news in June 1986 that Peter Scott had contracted AIDS.

In addition to caring for Scott and building a small consulting practice to support them, Mixner embarked on a successful attempt to create a California alternative to the slow and bureaucratic Federal Drug Administration in order to speed research and drug trials to fight AIDS.

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Meanwhile, all around him, friends and colleagues were dying, and President Reagan barely acknowledged the disease that had already killed thousands of Americans. After a period in which he responded to the AIDS drugs that were finally beginning to appear, Scott began a steady decline.

In November 1988, a frail Scott insisted that Mixner accompany him to the polls to vote against George H. W. Bush, who was running for what he promised would be "Reagan's third term." Apologizing for not simply casting an absentee ballot, Scott told Mixner, "if it's the last act of my life, I want to vote against the people who I believe killed me."

On May 13, 1989, Peter Scott died, leaving Mixner bereft, angry, and burned out.

The Clinton Campaign

In September 1991, Bill Clinton called Mixner to ask him to support his quest for the presidency. At the time most gay men and lesbians, and nearly all the national organizations, were supporting Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, who had an excellent record on gay and lesbian rights and had sponsored a gay and lesbian civil rights bill in the Senate.

Mixner told Clinton, who as Governor of Arkansas had a very sparse record on glbtq issues, that he could earn the support of gay and lesbian voters only if he took tough stands on issues of concern to the community.

Mixner agreed to prepare a position paper on gay and lesbian issues and Clinton asked to meet with community leaders on his next visit to Los Angeles.

Just before that visit took place, West Hollywood erupted into riots when Republican Governor Pete Wilson, after having indicated that he would sign a historic civil rights bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and accommodations, instead vetoed the bill. For two weeks, the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community vented their rage in demonstrations organized by ACT UP/Los Angeles.

Accompanied by Mixner to the meeting he had arranged with activists, Clinton was confronted by a group of people who were reeling from the devastation of AIDS and who were angry at the indignities and discrimination they had experienced.

At this meeting, Clinton made a number of promises, including his determination to issue executive orders prohibiting discrimination in federal employment and permitting gay men and lesbians to serve in the military. He also promised to enlist the resources of the federal government to find a cure for AIDS.

A skeptical Diane Abbitt pointed out that Wilson had made similar promises only to betray them once he was elected. She asked Clinton why they should trust him to keep his word. The candidate responded, "You'll have to watch my actions but you won't be disappointed. I won't be in the closet on this issue. I promise you that."

As the campaign for the nomination continued, Clinton made a point of emphasizing his support for gay rights at every opportunity. The promises he had given in the private meeting with gay and lesbian activists became public positions, and he quickly began to attract support from the glbtq community.

Clinton's eagerness to win support from the community was in marked contrast to the previous presidential campaign, when Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis was so fearful of being connected with the gay and lesbian community that he turned down Mixner's offer to raise one million dollars.

In January 1992, Mixner was asked to join the Clinton campaign's national executive committee and to help mobilize the gay and lesbian community. While at first he encountered a "Tsongas wall" of activists who thought the Massachusetts senator had earned the community's support through his years of hard work, he gradually was able to gain Clinton the backing of gay and lesbian leaders such as Roberta Achtenberg, then a San Francisco city supervisor, and many grassroots activists. He was also able to raise impressive amounts of money for his friend's campaign.

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