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social sciences

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Mixner, David (b. 1946)  
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Despite Mixner's attempts to advise the President how to go about implementing the promised executive order, he was refused access at crucial moments, especially by gatekeepers such as George Stephanopoulos and Rahm Emanuel. The result was a disaster in which homophobic senators like Sam Nunn and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell in effect rolled the new Commander-in-Chief.

Clinton's failure to exert appropriate leadership, especially with Powell, assured the imposition of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which was ultimately presented as a compromise, but which was implemented in a way that made the conditions for gay and lesbian servicemembers even worse than they had been.

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Mixner soon discovered that the Clinton administration was filled with "fair-weather friends" who were happy to take gay money and votes, but who were nevertheless contemptuous of gay people and unsympathetic to the cause. Even getting permits for the 1993 March on Washington, which was scheduled in the midst of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" controversy, proved difficult because of the arrogance of Rahm Emanuel.

When Clinton announced that he was willing to consider segregation of gay and lesbian troops, Mixner felt that he had been betrayed by the president he had helped elect. Livid, he accepted an invitation to appear on the ABC news program Nightline to denounce the President's position even though he knew that doing so would change his relationship with the Clinton White House forever and would also negatively affect his consulting business.

Having been rendered persona non grata at the White House because of his appearance on Nightline, Mixner was pointedly excluded from the historic meeting Clinton arranged with lesbian and gay leaders on April 16, 1993 in advance of the March on Washington. At this meeting, Clinton reiterated his promise that he intended to sign an executive order lifting the ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Despite this promise, and despite strong objections from Vice President Gore, Clinton on July 19, 1993, announced the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The new policy, with the backing of the President and Democratic Congressional leaders, was soon codified into law so as to make it impossible to be altered by an executive order by Clinton or any other President, thus making, as Mixner bitterly realized, "our path to freedom all the harder."

Devastated by the President's betrayal and failure of leadership, Mixner denounced the policy and volunteered to participate in an act of civil disobedience in order to protest it. On the morning of July 30, 1993, he joined a small march to Lafayette Park across from the White House. Then he crossed the street, where he was arrested.

Although Mixner and Clinton attempted to heal the rift between them, and Mixner was later to praise Clinton for many of his initiatives, such as the AIDS legislation named for Ryan White, which dramatically increased funding for the care of people with AIDS, and the executive order that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in every federal agency except the military, the close relationship the two enjoyed for a while was never recaptured.

In his autobiography, My Life (2004), Clinton mentions neither the Defense of Marriage Act nor David Mixner's name. Nor does he acknowledge the crucial help he received from the glbtq community in his quest for the presidency.

Despite this snub, Mixner is more generous than Clinton, consistently describing him as a great president.

Post Clinton Years

Although Mixner retreated from the limelight after his public rift with Clinton, he has remained active in the Democratic Party and in the quest for equal rights. He has been actively involved as a consultant and strategist in many campaigns, and was an active participant in the successful fight against George Bush's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

In 1996, Mixner published his autobiography, Stranger among Friends. The memoir is valuable not only for its insights into the Clinton campaign and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" debacle, but also for its history of the gay and lesbian rights movement in Los Angeles from the 1970s through the early 1990s, particularly its emergence as a major factor in local politics.

Most stirringly, however, the book intertwines a history of human rights activism with the deeply personal story of Mixner's growth as a gay man and as a leader of a beleaguered community.

In 2000, Mixner served as executive producer of Mustapha Khan's documentary film, House on Fire, about the HIV epidemic in the African-American community.

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