Press

Statement On Defense Bill That Discriminates Against People With AIDS

Date: 
January 26, 1996

The following statement is attributable to Kerry Lobel, Deputy Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nation's oldest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. It regards the Department of Defense authorization bill, authored by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), that was approved on January 24. Last December, President Clinton vetoed the measure, citing, among other reasons, discrimination against people with HIV in the armed forces. However, White House officials say the President will "reluctantly" sign it this time. The bill instructs the Pentagon to discharge all service members who test positive for HIV, even if they are healthy and show no signs of illness. The measure is expected to affect immediately up to 1,200 service people with HIV.

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We condemn the provision in the defense authorization bill that will discriminate against service members with HIV. The measure is unsound AIDS health care policy and is discriminatory to the hundreds of brave and courageous members of the Armed Forces who have admirably served their country. We also oppose the provision in the bill that bans abortion procedures in military facilities. This measure further erodes the constitutional right of reproductive freedom and access for women.

The actions of Rep. Dornan and Sen. Trent Lott reflect the extremes to which the Radical Right will go to impose its discriminatory agenda on the American people. Despite volumes of conscientious health care recommendations for dealing with the AIDS epidemic, including those offered by the Pentagon itself, Dornan and Lott ignore the facts about HIV prevention, care and the opinion of a majority of Americans who believe people with AIDS should not be discriminated against.

The failure to stop this bill and the silence of Congressional leaders Newt Gingrich and Robert Dole is shameful and appalling. Their silence equals complicity in the bill's passage and its disastrous effect on service members with HIV. As Gingrich and Dole continue to pander to the Far Right, they unfortunately demonstrate their mean-spirited vision of America under a Republican majority.

We recognize the difficult position facing President Clinton. The Radical Right's threat to shut down the defense of the country so it could impose its own extreme agenda forces the President to make a troubling decision. We urge the President not to "blink" in the face of the Radical Right's threat.

Finally, this controversy points out that more than a decade into the epidemic we have yet to see strong, principled, responsible and consistent bipartisan leadership in fighting AIDS and HIV. We call on President Clinton, Sen. Dole and Rep. Gingrich to use all their executive and congressional powers to thwart this provision.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.