Women’s and lesbian/gay rights groups are opposing the possible nomination of former senator Daniel Coats (R-IN) as Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s administration. Coats led the Republican Party in opposition to Clinton’s efforts to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, and had been a leading skeptic of gender integration in the armed forces. While some Republican leaders argue that most gender and sexual orientation policies in the military will see little change in the G.W. Bush administration, women’s and LGBT rights groups fear that a Coats nomination could turn back the clock for women and gays in the military. The Washington Post notes that the Republican Party Platform includes a commitment to re-evaluate the issue of gender integration in the military.
Both the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Human Rights Campaign assert that Coats’ socially conservative record in the senate is cause for concern, especially in terms of gays in the military, specifically whether the sexes should be separated in basic training. Kate Michelman, President of NARAL, called him “one of the fiercest opponents of women’s rights in general, and specifically a woman’s right to choose.” The National Right to Life Committee praised his possible nomination, and the conservative Center for Military Readiness, led by Elaine Donnelly, who was one of Phyllis Schlafly’s Stop ERA leaders, also favors a Coats nomination.