Press

NGLTF Calls for Full Investigation into Brutal Death of Army PFC

Date: 
July 09, 1999

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

Kerry Lobel, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, issued the following statement Friday evening in response to the brutal beating death of PFC Barry Winchell. Winchell, a 21-year-old Private First Class at Fort Campbell, died earlier this week at a hospital in nearby Nashville, Tenn after allegedly being assaulted with a baseball bat by at least one of his fellow servicemen.

"We call on the military authorities to fully investigate and disclose the nature of this terrible tragedy. PFC Winchell pledged to protect and defend his country. Who was protecting and defending PFC Winchell? Although not all of the facts surrounding this death are known, it is important to point out that it occurred in a climate of hostility against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) servicemembers — a climate fostered by the military's own policies. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't work — in fact, it has made things worse.

"Winchell's death also occurred during an epidemic of hate violence against GLBT people. Last year, at least 33 lives were lost as a result of anti-GLBT violence.

"We also call on all branches of the military to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of all the men and women serving our country. The fear of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and even violence is all too real for many military personnel, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered or whether they are perceived as such."

URGENT

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has dispatched staff members to the Fort Campbell area to investigate the circumstances of the incident. If you have relevant information about this crime, call 202-669-6279 over the weekend and 202-328-3244 during working hours or email sldn@sldn.org.

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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 movementís 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.