May Declines Army Quit Offer

Mark R. Kerr, Tucson Weekly Observer
May 3, 2000 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

The gay Arizona representative is determined to make the Army Reserve carry out its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" proceeding against him.

Arizona Representative Steve May (R-Phoenix) was hip-deep in the harried final days of the state legislative session and had just returned from training soldiers headed for Europe when he received a special delivery letter from the Army Reserve, asking him to resign his commission.

The March 9 letter from Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Colonel Harry B. Pearl notified May "that involuntary separation action has been initiated against you... specifically because of homosexuality." As added encouragement the letter included a resignation letter ready for the gay lieutenant to sign – all he would have to do to end the investigation that could lead to his discharge under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. But May refused and requested that the process be allowed to go forward.

"There is no honor in resignation," May said. Responding in a letter dated March 24, May said "as my attorney and I have previously stated, I believe there is not sufficient basis for administrative separation proceedings in this matter. Consequently, I am requesting a hearing before a board of officers." May went on to say that he will continue to serve his unit and will serve until the Army holds an involuntary separation hearing. He has requested the hearing take place after the two-week training exercise he is scheduled to lead in Flagstaff in July.

Stacy Sobel from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (, an organization protecting the rights of individuals serving in the armed services being investigated under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, supports May's decision to go before the Administrative Separation Board. "He feels he should serve," she said, "and his military record shows he can get the job done, and that is the most important thing."

May, one of four openly gay elected officials in the state, said the recently concluded session of the Arizona legislature, which continued nearly around the clock for three weeks past the allotted schedule, prevented him from publicizing the latest development in his case until now. The Phoenix Republican was also in the process of moving of his Tempe-based business.

May became the subject of an inquiry by the Army Reserve after testifying before the Arizona House Government Reform Committee in February 1999 on a bill that would prohibit local government entities (such as Pima County and the City of Tucson) from extending benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. May was a civilian at the time of his testimony, having been honorably discharged from the Army in 1995, but was called back to active duty in the Army Reserve during the Kosovo Crisis – just a few days after his remarks before the legislative committee. Christopher Wolf, May's attorney, had argued in writing that he did not violate the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"The Army apparently believes that a reserve officer is prohibited from discussing his or her sexual orientation, even if done in the course of fulfilling his or her responsibility as a legislator, and even if done as a private citizen," Wolf said in a November letter.

Ted Bartimus, a spokesperson for the Army Reserve stated the Army is in the process of appointing a board of officers, but that a hearing date had not been scheduled. Bartimus could not say how long it will take to resolve the case or how many officers would be appointed to the hearing board; he could also not comment on why it took so long between the conclusion of the investigation and the resignation offer, since according to documents the inquiry had ended in February.

On May 5, the Philadelphia chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans will be honoring May with their "Spirit of Abe Lincoln Award" for his legislative work and for his service in the Army Reserve. In Philadelphia, May will be honored on May 7 at Pride Fest America, a symposium of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered activists, where he will be receiving the Fifth Annual Tom Stoddard National Role Model Award for his courageous challenge of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.