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social sciences

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Mixner, David (b. 1946)  
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Gradually, the gay and lesbian community moved away from Tsongas toward Clinton. Although the Arkansas governor had evinced little support for gay and lesbian rights in the past, he impressed the community with his empathy and warmth.

At a pivotal meeting with gay and lesbian leaders in Los Angeles, after rehearsing his promises to end discrimination, Clinton told them, "I want you to have the opportunity to just be people, and live up to your fullest potential. This is my commitment. I could do no less and still hold my head up."

Sponsor Message.

At a critical moment in the campaign for the nomination, with Clinton in a tough battle in the New York primary, Mixner pressed him to meet with a group of AIDS activists. At the meeting, he made several commitments, including one to reform the drug trial approval process and to engage in a Manhattan Project to find an AIDS cure.

These promises contributed to his victory in New York, which was followed soon by an overwhelming victory in California, which cinched his nomination.

Glbtq votes and glbtq money were essential to his success.

Clinton's triumphant nominating convention featured a number of openly gay speakers, including Robert Hattoy, who identified himself as "a gay man with AIDS," and added: "If there is any honor in having this disease it is the honor of being part of the gay and lesbian community in America."

During the general election campaign, gay and lesbian voters surged to support Clinton, particularly after Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan electrified the Republican National Convention with homophobic attacks and a declaration of a "religious war for the soul of America."

In response to the Republican attacks, Mixner launched a massive voter registration drive and increased fundraising efforts targeting gay men and lesbians. By late September of 1992, Mixner and his associates had raised for the Clinton campaign more than one million "gay and lesbian" dollars in California and more than three and one-half million nationally.

With Clinton's victory, there was rejoicing in glbtq communities across the country and very high expectations. As Mixner observed, "We had earned our way to the table and deserved to be treated as full partners." After 12 years of Republican rule, during which gay and lesbian issues, including the AIDS catastrophe, were neglected, the hope was that these concerns would now be forcefully addressed and the dream of equal rights would become a reality.

During the period after the election and before the inauguration, Mixner worked hard to make certain that gay men and lesbians would be represented in the new administration. He announced that he would not seek a position for himself, but he advocated for other appointees, including especially Roberta Achtenberg and Robert Hattoy, who were to receive the highest appointments in the new administration.

When Achtenberg was thinking of turning down the position of Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mixner insisted that she accept it. "'Listen,' I told her, 'this is a major appointment. The highest ever offered to a gay or lesbian in the history of the United States. We have to start somewhere.'"

Clinton's Betrayal

More than 40 gay men and lesbians received appointments in the administration, spread through almost every department and agency in the government and in the White House itself.

The inaugural celebrations of the new President included gay and lesbian balls, and also a "Salute to David Mixner" evening sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in which Senator Edward Kennedy extolled him as someone who "has won a high place in the annals of a movement to free a whole segment of our people from oppression. He has touched history, and in the process contributed to changing the lives of millions."

But despite these victories, Mixner quickly became aware that gay and lesbian issues were not deemed a high priority by the mostly young White House staffers. He became angry when he realized that when glbtq issues did come to the fore, the staffers did not consult with him or other community leaders.

The failure to consult gay men and lesbians who knew firsthand how volatile attitudes toward homosexuality could be exploited by homophobes led to the first disaster of the Clinton administration, the attempt to end the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military.

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