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Volume 15/Issue 14

by PlanetOut,, a Worldwide Online Community of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans People

Whitewater Queries Gay Hires

Most of the Clinton presidency has been dogged by the continuing investigation of Whitewater, a real estate investment Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton made in 1978 which has had myriad ramifications into banking, influence peddling and unsavory associations-and now there's a gay angle, too.

The Washington Post broke a story that the investigators had in April been questioning Arkansas state troopers about Clinton's sexual habits while he was governor, to the outrage of the President's fellow Democrats, and it turns out that in the same month they were asking openly gay White House employee Bob Hattoy about his part in recruiting gays and lesbians for jobs in the administration. Hattoy described the questioning as "something out of the McCarthy era," the Communist-baiting, anti-Semitic and gay-baiting investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee that made the post-World War II years a time of terror.

Hattoy most notably came to public attention in 1992, when he described his personal experience of AIDS in a speech to the Democratic National Convention that nominated Clinton for his first term in the White House. Hattoy participated with the transition team that developed Clinton's first term appointments and took a personnel job in the Administration himself. He's been working there ever since, currently as White House liaison for the Department of the Interior.

He says that in April he was interrogated for two hours by two Whitewater prosecutors and an FBI agent as to whether he had attended fund-raising events of concern to the investigation and whether he had helped Clinton friend, former Arkansas associate attorney general and convicted mail fraud and tax evader Webster Hubbell's wife obtain a job in the Department of the Interior. But early in the questioning, Hattoy told the Associated Press, "All of a sudden they said, 'By the way, one of your jobs was to hire homosexuals in the highest positions in government.' They said, 'Do you think you were successful?'...[the] question was way off the subject. I was appalled. It chilled me. I told them I was very successful, that gays were at the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Interior Department and I think I saw a few coming into the building." There's no question that Clinton appointments have included vastly more open gays and lesbians than any previous administration (more than 100, including former Assistant Housing and Urban Development Secretary Roberta Achtenberg and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Bruce Lehman, the first open lesbian and gay man to be confirmed by the Senate).

The office of independent Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr has not yet commented on Hattoy's claims, which will surely be added to the ever-growing list of Democratic contentions that Starr has abused his powers to create a partisan smear campaign. Despite the years of intensive investigation, the Clintons have yet to be formally accused of any actual wrongdoing.

Zimbabwe's Banana Denies All

Canaan Banana, Zimbabwe's first post-colonial president, has flatly denied all charges of sexual harassment and sexual assaults against other men in a June 19 interview with Harare's Zimbabwe Independent. The allegations first came to light in late February during the murder trial of police constable Jefta Dube, who testified that he had been sexually assaulted by Banana when serving in the palace guard during Banana's 1980 - 1987 presidency. Further testimony indicated that high police officials had been aware at the time of complaints not only from Dube but from others as well, but that no action had been taken because of Banana's political power. When police began to investigate, they told the media they were inundated with additional allegations from others who had served as aides during Banana's presidency, from members of his soccer team, and from his students in the religion department at the University of Zimbabwe. Police said they had turned over nine of those cases on June 13 for prosecution on charges of sodomy and homosexuality. The Methodist Church, in which Banana is an ordained minister, has also been carrying out its own investigation.

Banana had remained silent until the "Independent" interview, in which he was joined by his attorney Amos Chirunda. He said, "The so-called allegations are a mortuary of pathological lies, a malicious vendetta of vilification and character assassination." He also called them "nonsense," "laughable" and "the biggest joke in living memory"-and laughed heartily to prove it. Banana claimed that some people had come to him claiming they'd been offered bribes as large as Z$500,000 to testify against him, although he had no idea who was making the offers. His main argument was that it should not have taken alleged victims ten years after the end of his presidency to come forward-a somewhat disingenuous statement, given that he remained closely allied with current President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Banana said he had never discussed the allegations with Mugabe, who has gained an international reputation for his vehement pronouncements against gays and lesbians.

Chirunda emphasized that the only case actually before the court right now is a civil lawsuit filed by Dube.

Banana said he is "innocent" and "not a troubled man." He denied that his wife Janet had left him because of the allegations, saying she has never left him. He also declared he has no intentions of making a political comeback, but he said he is still treated with "respect" and that the Organization for African Unity- which Mugabe now heads-has further plans to use him as a mediator in Liberia. However, Banana was notably not invited to a large rally earlier this year in celebration of Zimbabwe's independence.

Right-Wing Suit v. SF DP Rule

T he Virginia-based American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), founded by religious right leader Pat Robertson, recently filed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco's pioneering measure that requires the city's contractors to give employees' unmarried domestic partners the same benefits given to legally married spouses. The suit is filed on behalf of P.M. & M. Electric, Inc. on the grounds that the company would like to bid for San Francisco contracts, but might have its reputation damaged by being labeled an "irresponsible bidder" because of its corporate opposition to extending benefits to unmarried couples.

This suit is similar to the one already pending against the new San Francisco ordinance by the Air Transport Association (ATA), in that it argues that federal law takes precedence and that the city exceeded its authority by trying to regulate companies outside its boundaries. The P.M. & M. case will be heard in August by the same federal judge as the ATA case.

Meanwhile, it's become the occasion for dueling insults between ACLJ attorney Benjamin Bull for the religious right and openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, one of the chief supporters of the contractors law. "The goal of this ordinance is to destroy traditional marriage as the bedrock institution in our society and, in its place, substitute whatever sexual arrangements are currently in vogue....San Francisco is attempting to force businesses located all across America to adopt its extremist and radical agenda. Its efforts are not only wrong, but unconstitutional," said Bull's press release. "'It's the typical cheap-shot grandstanding that the charlatan, anti-gay camp uses," Ammiano shot back, describing the lawsuit as a "scare tactic" instituted for fund-raising purposes.

Detroit Gay's Home Firebombed

The home of an openly gay Detroit man was hit by at least two gasoline firebombs early on the morning of June 29, burning the house almost to the ground and killing some 30 animals he raised in the yard-his dog, four Dalmatian puppies, and more than two dozen prize-winning Angora rabbits. One bomb was thrown through the bedroom window and would have killed Donald Sullivan if he had been home at the time. Sullivan suspects some of his neighbors who have abused him with homophobic language in the past, and Detroit's gay and lesbian Triangle Foundation has asked that the attack be considered a hate crime, but police and fire officials are not yet ready to say more than that the fire was caused by arson. A $5,000 reward has been posted by the fire department for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist.

Sullivan says he's lost more than 90% of everything he ever had, and his home was not insured. Those wishing to help him out can send checks made out to "Triangle Foundation - Sullivan Fund" to the Triangle Foundation, 19641 West Seven Mile, Detroit, Michigan 48219, or call the Foundation at 313.537.3323 from 10 am - 4 pm edt.

Clinton Pride Proclamation

Bill Clinton has boldly gone where no U.S. President has gone before, proclaiming June to be Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Employee Awareness Month. His written message of "Warm greetings to all those participating in the 1997 Gay and Lesbian Pride Celebration" stressed the importance of ending discrimination and hate crimes against gays and lesbians. It called for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA, the measure to establish federal protections from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate in September and was recently reintroduced). It closed with a statement of his pride in the openly gay men and lesbians who have served in his administration and his personal pledge to "continue striving to foster compassion and understanding, working not simply to tolerate our differences, but to celebrate them."

That this proclamation went almost entirely unreported (and it does not appear among the White House statements listed online on or about the same date) suggests that it may have been less widely circulated than is usual for such messages.

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