By James Sterngold: New York Times
PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Arizona State Representative Steve May is a
conservative Republican representing an affluent area of Eastern
Phoenix. He carefully built his life to get credibility as a
conservative Republican -- service as an Army officer, and current
service as an Army Reservist, small-businessman running his family's
herbal-tea and natural-foods company, and Mormon roots as the son of
a former LDS Bishop.
But May's credibility is now under attack because he spoke-out on an
issue close to his heart - gay rights. And because of it, other state
republicans are looking to replace him, and the Army may discharge
him from serving as a Reservist under the Clinton "don't ask, don't"
policy because May is himself gay.
In February, May spoke out in the Arizona House on legislation that
would have barred the use of public funds to pay for health benefits
of same-sex partners. The legislation simply struck too close to
home. May acknowledges that he should have kept quiet, "But when you
attack my family and you steal my freedom, I will not sit quietly in
my office. This Legislature takes my gay tax dollars, and my gay tax
dollars spend the same as your straight tax dollars. If you're not
going to treat me fairly, don't take my money." While the legislation
failed, May's remarks about his sexual orientation were widely quoted
in Phoenix and featured in a cover article in the Phoenix New Times,
an alternative magazine.
Since he made these remarks in pubic, the Army has now opened an
investigation of May, to determine whether his remarks will lead to
his discharge from the Army Reserve. Reserve spokesman Col. John R.
Hawkins III says that the case is quite clear, "I don't think that
the individual has been, shall we say, keeping this under wraps, as
to his sexual orientation."
May's sexual orientation first became known when he ran
unsuccessfully for the Arizona State Senate three years ago. His
family has known since May was 18. In the three years since the
senate race, May has become more involved in gay rights issues. One
of just 34 admitted homosexual state lawmakers nationwide, May is the
only one that is a Republican. He is a board member of the Log Cabin
Republicans, an interest group for gay and lesbian party members.
The fallout from May's remarks has probably not ended, either. May
has clashed with state republican leaders, like speaker of the
Arizona house, Jeff Groscost, and the additional publicity about his
homosexuality will likely hurt his chances for winning re-election
next year. Concerned that the party may not support his re-election
bid, May is trying to raise a $100,000 campaign chest, a huge sum for
Even state party chairman Mike Minnaugh says that May could be in
trouble because of his remarks. "Steve May is a pretty good guy, to
tell you the truth. As an individual, I do not endorse homosexual
relationships -- it goes against my beliefs -- but I do respect his
rights. As long as he doesn't go and talk a lot about his
homosexuality, he can continue to get elected."
Reflecting on his experience, May blames religion for the attitudes
of others about his homosexuality. "I've always been Republican," he
said. "I believe in the core Republican principles. I also happen to
be gay. But the party has been hijacked by theocratic fascists."