Controversy Over Homosexual General Called 'Manufactured'

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - The controversy that has erupted around a homosexual Army general who is supposedly a Republican voter, yet supports Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, is "manufactured" and "blown completely out of proportion," according to a group that advocates for the repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military.

Gen. Keith Kerr asked a question at the Nov. 28 Republican presidential debate about the military policy prohibiting homosexuals from serving the military. Kerr, who identified himself as "an openly gay man," asked the Republican candidates why they think American service members can't serve with homosexuals.

The candidates who answered the question all supported the current law, which prohibits homosexuals from serving. Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in 1993, homosexuals have been able to serve -- although in violation of the law -- unless they are openly homosexual.

But conservative bloggers and other debate watchers pointed out that Kerr is an advisor and supporter of Clinton's presidential campaign. The New York Democrat opposes the ban on homosexuals in the military. CNN, which sponsored and aired the debate, later apologized for not knowing about or disclosing Kerr's affiliation.

Some have suggested, because of other recent controversies over the Clinton campaign planting questions, that Kerr's question was planted by the Clinton campaign. That is a charge that Kerr's supporters strongly reject.

"He did not in any way coordinate with Sen. Clinton on the question that was posed last night," Steve Ralls, a spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), told Cybercast News Service. "Sen. Clinton was not aware that the question was going to be in the debate."

The group advocates for the repeal of the law barring homosexuals from serving in the military. Kerr is a member of the SLDN's military advisory council.

Ralls said Kerr is "not an advisor. He does support [Clinton's] campaign. However, it is ludicrous to assume that someone who supports one candidate is not eligible to ask another candidate about their position on the issues.

"This is a controversy blown completely out of proportion," Ralls said. "Gen. Kerr is a decorated Army officer with 43 years of experience. His question was a serious one, and it's disappointing that some have tried to distract from his stellar question at last night's debate."

The SLDN argues that Americans support repealing the ban. The group cites a May 2007 CNN poll, which reported that 79 percent of Americans think homosexuals should be allowed to openly serve in the military.

But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a group that opposes lifting the ban on homosexuals in the military, said Kerr misrepresented himself and accused SLDN of distorting his record as well.

"In this case, he misrepresented himself, and the SLDN, of course, has been misrepresenting the facts about this issue for many, many years," Donnelly said, suggesting that not disclosing Kerr's affiliation with the Clinton campaign and SLDN was inappropriate.

But while criticizing the way the question was presented, Donnelly said it was good that Republicans were put on the record regarding the issue. "I think the Republicans should take a stand on this issue," she said. "There is no reason not to. All the Democratic candidates are endorsing efforts to repeal the law."

Donnelly said the responses "were okay" but added that "I would hope that in the future, the candidates will say, and they should be comfortable saying that, 'I would instruct the armed forces to comply with the 1993 law and I would oppose efforts to repeal it.'"

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