May, McCain meet on 'don't ask' policy

Legislator: Senator still backs rule

Jeff Barker, Republic Washington Bureau, Arizona Republic
December 30, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – An openly gay Army reservist was unable Wednesday to convince his senator and hero, John McCain, that he should quit supporting the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Steve May, who is facing a possible Army discharge, said after a private meeting with McCain that he's not sure the GOP presidential candidate fully understands the consequences of the policy. Under it, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in the military so long as their sexual orientation is not divulged.

"Like most Americans, I don't know that John McCain has had the opportunity to think critically about this policy since it was implemented," said May, a Republican state representative from Phoenix. "I talked to him about many specific cases where the policy was implemented where soldiers were unnecessarily harassed or hurt."

May says his case is an example of how the policy is flawed. He publicly disclosed his homosexuality after he was honorably discharged in 1995, then found himself recalled in early 1999 during the Kosovo war. Now, the Army is moving ahead with plans to discharge May despite stellar performance ratings.

May, who is supporting McCain's presidential bid, said the senator agreed Wednesday to try to help May who, after all, is an Arizona constituent.

"He's going to call the Department of the Army and try to get more information – look into the specifics of the case and make sure I'm being treated fairly," May said.

Before their meeting, May said he's not sure McCain understood the chronology – that May had not "come out" while he was still in the Army.

"I don't think he quite understood the timeline," May said.

But May and McCain continued to disagree about "Don't ask, don't tell."

According to May, McCain cited Gen. Colin Powell's backing of the policy.

"McCain said, "I've got these generals out there, and I rely on the military judgment of those generals,' " May said.

While some generals have said openly gay and lesbian soldiers detract from military cohesion, May said he told McCain, "My experience is very different."

May's case was featured on CBS' 60 Minutes, and he has become a poster child for those who oppose "Don't ask, don't tell."

May said he continues to support McCain, despite their disagreement.

"The Democrats are trying to use this as a wedge issue between John McCain and me. I think my endorsement for John McCain is perceived by some Democrats as a threat to their control over the gay vote," May said.