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Steve T. May, an Arizona legislator and openly gay Army reserve lieutenant, spoke to students on Saturday about his personal fight against the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
May was honorably discharged from the Army Reserve last month for allegedly violating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He is appealing the decision.
About 40 students gathered in the Kirkland House Junior Common Room to hear the Republican state representative speak about the challenges he encounters as a gay public figure.
The event was sponsored by Beyond Our Normal Differences (BOND).
May discussed everything from fighting for domestic partnership benefits to flaws in "don't ask, don't tell" policies.
"When you have a law which says that gays and lesbians are inferior to serve their country, you're institutionalizing discrimination....The law has to change," May said.
He described the policy as unethical and impractical.
"This policy is beneath who we are as American people," he said, pointing to the nation's philosophy of individual rights. He also cited the impracticality of the policy. "We fire three to four soldiers everyday because of something they have said, 'I am gay,'" he said.
"[The policy] is not based on rationality, not based on studies...but just political prejudice," he said.
After telling his story, May opened the floor up for questions and comments from the audience. His answers were peppered with dry wit.
When one student asked what branch of the military was the worst in discrimination against gays, May promptly answered "the Air Force" and referred to the five-day period allotted to individuals after "coming out" should they wish to retract the statement.
"I was gay for a day, sir!" May joked, playing the role of one such individual.
Another student asked about the difficulties in reconciling his membership in the Republican Party with his sexual orientation.
"The Republican Party has a platform...which is anti-gay, but most Republicans are not anti-gay," May said.
He defended his party's principles, blaming right-wing extremists for the anti-gay platform.
"They can't get elected because they're crazy, so they write the platform," he joked.
Several students who attended said they were impressed by May's command of the issues.
"I thought he handled himself really well juggling the issues...He managed to put them all together in a manner that makes sense," said Stephanie L. Coon '01, an English concentrator in Kirkland House.
May's sister, Shannon K. May '99-'00, was also present at the lecture. She applauded her brother's fight against "don't ask, don't tell."
"I think he's a strong example for many men and women in the service," she said.
A military panel recommended that May be discharged from the Army Reserve because he acknowledged his sexual orientation while on active status at a February 1999 hearing.
He contends that he was speaking as a citizen and then a public servant. He also points to a flawless service record as reason to allow him to remain.
"I'm going to appeal [the decision]. There's no reason for me to be discharged based on who I am and not because of my behavior," May said.
An Army general will affirm or reject the decision within the next three months.
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