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Bashed Gay Solider Discharged From Army


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Bashed Gay Solider Discharged From Army

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 6, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Sierra Vista, Arizona) A 19-year old Army Private who was beaten by one soldier and threatened by another after they learned he is gay has been discharged.

Private Kyle Lawson was punched in the face by a fellow member of a training unit at Fort Huachuca at an off-post party in October after a friend let it slip that Lawson was gay.

The soldier accused of hitting Lawson told police that Lawson made sexually suggestive remarks. But the Sierra Vista police officer who investigated the case said "there was no provocation." (story)

Lawson told police that the soldier who broke his nose used a profane anti-gay slur. He said a second soldier threatened him with a knife outside a barracks as word spread about his sexual orientation.

He became so concerned about his personal safety after the attacks he slept on a cot in his drill sergeant's office.

Police charged Private Zacharias Pierre with felony aggravated assault - a charge that draws an average 3 1/2 years in prison upon conviction in Arizona, more if a judge finds the crime was hate-based.

Using military regulations officials at Fort Huachuca took control of the case, dropping the charges laid by Sierra Vista police. They have refused to say if any appropriate action has been taken to hold his attacker accountable but media reports indicate that Pierre has received only a slap on the wrist - the withdrawal of a weekend pass.

Lawson requested the discharge following the attack.

Thursday night he left the military with an honorable discharge, a suggestion that military police agreed with local authorities that the attack on him had been unprovoked.

The discharge papers contain space for illegal or problematic behavior to be noted. Each of those spaces in Lawson's paperwork contains the word "none."

"It's bittersweet," Lawson said of his departure from the military. "On one hand, it will be better for me because I can be who I am. But I'm going to miss it a lot. I really loved it," he told the Arizona Daily Star.

While Lawson begins his new life as a civilian the underlying issue of homophobia in the military remains.

“The command at Fort Huachuca owes Private Lawson, Congress and the public an explanation about why an anti-gay attack appears to have gone unpunished," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

" Harassment will continue to flourish and commanders will continue to condone that harassment, as they appear to have done in this case, so long as it remains official policy to discharge soldiers for being gay," said Osburn.

" Congress and the Pentagon must repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ immediately and impose strict penalties against those who engage in any form of harassment. If America is fighting for democracy abroad, it must abide by those same principles at home."

Openly gay Congressman Barney Frank is also waiting for answers.

Last month Frank sent a letter to Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker, Frank criticizing the handling of the Lawson case. (story)

"According to unchallenged reports, the local police believed the attack to be a criminal assault, with no justification such as self-defense," Frank said his letter to Gen. Schoomaker.

"Despite this, apparently at the request of the Army over which you preside, no charges were filed against the assailant and the consequence is that Private Lawson was doubly victimized, once by the assailant, and then by having to leave the Army in the absence of any action by those under your command to protect him."

Shortly after the attack on Lawson the mother of a soldier killed in a homophobic attack by fellow members of the military in 1999 accused the Pentagon of doing little or nothing to end hate attacks. (story)

In 2000, the Pentagon announced it would take concrete steps to curb anti-gay harassment in our military and to hold accountable those who harass and condone harassment.

"Nearly six years later, Pentagon leaders have failed to keep their promise," said Patricia Kutteles the mother Army Private First Class Barry Winchell. "The time has come for them to do just that, or for Congress to hold them accountable if they do not."

In 1999 Kutteles's son, Army Private First Class Barry Winchell, was perceived as gay because he was seeing Calpernia Addams, a pre-op transsexual. Winchell was beaten to death with a baseball bat in his barracks. Two men are currently in prison for the attack.

©365Gay.com 2006


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