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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
Gay US soldier faces discharge
Lieutenant May and his lawyer Christopher Wolf
May and his lawyer: Appeal planned
By Jonny Dymond in Washington

A member of the Arizona state legislature in the United States has been told to leave the army, in which he serves as a reserve soldier, because he is gay.

Reserve Lieutenant Steve May revealed his sexuality during a 1999 debate in the legislature about whether to prohibit government benefits for employees' homosexual partners


This policy is an old dinosaur that is an embarrassment to the nation

Lieutenant Steve May
He accuses the US Government of continuing to discriminate against gay and lesbian Americans and his lawyers have said he will campaign to stay in the army.

This is one of the most high-profile tests of the army's policy towards gay and lesbian soldiers.

Keeping quiet

The army will now review the decision to discharge Lieutenant May, which will take three months.

In the early 1990s, amid much controversy, US military forces, adopted what was known as a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Serving men and women are not asked about their sexuality, and homosexuals were expected not to be open about it.

The US army
The US army maintains a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy
At the time Mr May publicly revealed he was gay, he was not serving in the forces. But during Nato's military campaign in Kosovo last year, he was called up again.

Army lawyers had sought a general discharge for Mr May but a panel, sitting in Los Alamitos, near Los Angeles, decided to give him an honourable discharge.

In many cases related to violations of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, soldiers have been given dishonourable discharges, which result in loss of benefits and the ability to re-enlist.

Discrimination

Lieutenant May says not only does the policy not apply to him, but that Congress should change it.

He noted that the US was the last Nato member that practises mandatory discrimination.

"The bigger picture here is that our government, which takes my tax dollars, continues to discriminate against gay and lesbian American citizens and it is wrong," Lieutenant May said.

His lawyers say that if the army continues to try to discharge him, they will go to court.

They hope the army will exercise a provision that would allow him to stay on for the "good of the service".

Mr May will continue serving with the 348th Transportation Company training soldiers to defend themselves against chemical attacks until the appeal.

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