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Mixner, David (b. 1946)  
 
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In 2010 when Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangeli made headlines by chaining themselves to a fence outside the White House to protest the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from military service, they were reprising an identical action by David Mixner in 1993.

The difference is that Mixner was protesting not only the egregious policy, but also what he considered a personal betrayal by President Clinton, the friend whom he had helped propel to the presidency.

Sponsor Message.

Mixner's 1993 act of civil disobedience was not his first, nor would it be his last. He has been jailed more than a dozen times, all as a result of his pursuit of social justice, from expanding civil rights for African Americans to protesting the Vietnam War and helping secure the rights of gay men and lesbians.

Indeed, Mixner is, in the words of Randy Shulman, "one of the great activists of our time." Although he has mostly worked behind the scenes, as an organizer and consultant and campaign manager, he has nevertheless become a highly visible gay man as a result of his outspokenness in behalf of equal rights and his friendships with figures such as Senator Edward Kennedy and President Clinton.

And while he has worked as a political insider, becoming a mainstay of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, he has always been acutely aware of his outsider status by virtue of his homosexuality. His bestselling memoir is tellingly entitled, Stranger among Friends.

Early Life

David Benjamin Mixner was born on August 16, 1946, the third child of a poor family in southern New Jersey. His father worked on a corporate farm and his mother at a glass factory and, later, at a John Deere dealership.

Although the family was poor, they valued education. Animated discussions of current events and politics were not only encouraged by Mixner's parents, but also by his older siblings, Melvin and Patsy.

Mixner early revealed both a sensitivity to injustice and an ambition to make a difference in the world. Even as a child, he vowed to "live the history of my times," desiring at least to be "a tiny footnote" in that chronicle.

In high school in the early 1960s, Mixner became aware of the momentous events that were beginning to reshape the country. He passionately supported the African-American civil rights movement, even sending scarce money to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mixner's commitment to civil rights found encouragement from his sister Patsy, who would herself become an activist on behalf of liberal causes, but was met with consternation from his parents, who were embarrassed by his activities on behalf of African Americans and Mexican farm workers. They forbade him to travel to Birmingham, Alabama during the summer of 1963, where he hoped to participate in freedom rides and voter registration efforts.

After enrolling at Arizona State University in the fall of 1964, Mixner had freer rein to participate in the civil rights activities, anti-war protests, and organizations in support of city garbage workers, interests that consumed more and more of his time.

At Arizona State, he also fell in love with a fellow student whom he identifies only as Kit. The affair with this beautiful young man released a passion that he had earlier found shameful and bewildering. But only a year into their relationship, Kit was killed in an automobile accident. Since Kit's parents had no idea that their son was gay, Mixner was unable to grieve openly. He decided not to attend his lover's funeral.

Anti-War Activism

Soon after this loss, Mixner decided to transfer to the University of Maryland so he could be near Washington, D. C. and participate more fully in the burgeoning anti-war movement.

Mixner helped organize the 1967 march on the Pentagon, the first large national protest of the Vietnam war, and then became involved in Senator Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign.

He helped secure McCarthy's wins in several caucuses and then worked to seat an integrated Georgia delegation at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. During the protests at the convention, Mixner was beaten by police, sustaining injuries that he has suffered from ever since.

In early 1969, the Democratic party, smarting from the defeat of Vice President Humphrey and believing that the undemocratic procedures on view at the 1968 convention contributed to the defeat, began a process of reform.

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David Mixner addressing Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund supporters in 2011.
  
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