Representative Steve May (R-Phoenix), has never denied being gay in his adult life, but has long made it a policy to discuss his sexuality only when asked. However, when Representative Karen Johnson (R-Mesa), characterized gays and lesbians as disease-carrying threats to moral society this past February, he could not hold back his indignation.
Johnson had been speaking in favor of HB 2523, a bill forbidding the state of Arizona from “providing health and accident coverage for domestic partners of its employees.” May angrily countered, “Many members, I guess, expected me to stay in my office quietly and don’t understand why I would come out publicly and oppose this ridiculous legislation. 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.”
Most likely prompted by that exchange, the U.S. Army has been conducting an investigation into whether or not May’s public statements violated the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and informed May of that investigation earlier this month. Under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, homosexuals are banned from publicly disclosing their sexual orientation, an act which is seen as showing intent to engage in homosexual acts.
Although the “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in theory supposed to protect gay and lesbian service members from persecution, many believe it has had the opposite effect. Since the policy took effect in 1994, the number of individuals discharged for being gay or lesbian has increased dramatically. There were 617 such discharges in 1994, 997 in 1997, and 1,145 last year.
The Pentagon recently announced two new guidelines for carrying out the policy. First, inquiries into the sexual orientation of a service member will now be conducted solely by senior officers. Second, troops will receive mandated anti-harassment training throughout their military careers, from boot camp through retirement.
May is one individual who argues that the very existence of the policy defines gays and lesbians are inferior. “First we’re going to indoctrinate our soldiers to believe that homosexuals are inferior and a threat because of this policy, and then we’re going to indoctrinate them into believing gays shouldn’t be harassed. It doesn’t make any sense.”