By Kent Larsen
US Army Gives Up Effort to Kick-Out Gay ex-LDS Arizona Legislator
PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Steve May, a gay former LDS Church member serving in the
Arizona state legislature, learned Monday that the US Army has dropped its
attempt to kick May out of the Army Reserves under its "don't ask, don't
tell" policy. The decision ends a 21-month-long effort by the Army to remove
May after his sexual orientation came to light.
May's sexual orientation became public knowledge during the Republican's run
for the Arizona House of Representatives in a district representing
Arizona's Paradise Valley. But the Army didn't notice that May was a
reservist until he argued in the legislature in February 1999 during a
debate over benefits for the partners of gay state employees. During that
debate, May admitted his sexual orientation.
Nearly three months later, the Army tried to take action, and May fought
hard to keep his position as a Lieutenant in the reserve. Had the Army
kicked him out, May stood to loose pension and GI bill benefits. A
Washington D.C. attorney, Chris Wolf, handled the case on a pro bono basis,
spending $120,000 of its own money in addition to $20,000 raised by May's
legal defense fund.
In the end, however, the Army caved under pressure from President Bill
Clinton. Clinton chief of staff John Podesta met with representatives of
Defense Secretary William Cohen and the general counsel for the Army
Secretary Church Blanchard, and brokered the deal along with May's attorneys.
The case is now being hailed by May and by gay rights advocates as a
significant victory. "This is a precedent-setting situation," May told
reporters and supporters gathered on the Capitol Mall Monday. "Never before
has the military ever dropped a case of 'don't ask, don't tell' and allowed
a soldier to serve the remainder of his term. This policy is beneath us as
an American people." May and his lawyer, Wolf, also argue that the Army went
beyond the policy, pursuing May instead of following the policy, "We have
argued all along that the Army mindlessly went on a 'search and destroy'
mission against one of its own, essentially playing a game of 'gotcha' in
order to oust a gay officer. This is not what Congress intended when it
passed 'don't ask, don't tell.' "
But Army claims that the only reason it agreed to drop the attempt to kick
him out was because May said he didn't plan to reenlist in the reserves when
his term of service ends May 11th. Army spokesman Kenneth Bacon says
dropping the attempt is not a change in the Army's procedures. "In cases
where the Army has begun involuntary separation procedures, a decision
voluntarily to resign will end those procedures," Bacon said. "What happened
here was very much in keeping with other cases."
But May says this claim doesn't fit the facts. He says he turned down the
Army's offer of resignation last spring, a decision that led the Army to try
and kick him out. "I lost my opportunity to resign. Never before has the
military stopped an action under don't ask, don't tell and allowed a member
to complete his normal term after a separation board has voted for a
Army ends effort to boot May
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 16Jan01 T2
By Robbie Sherwood and Chip Scutari: The Arizona Republic
Gay reservist celebrates win
May's case won't change Army policy
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 17Jan01 T2
By Robbie Sherwood: The Arizona Republic
Steve May becomes Public Face to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'