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Soldier seeks
discharge, alleges attacks based on his sexuality

Soldier seeks
discharge, alleges attacks based on his sexuality


After being punched in the face and threatened with a knife, Pvt. Kyle Lawson, who is gay, has requested a discharge from Fort Huachuca, an Army training unit in Arizona.

A gay soldier in Arizona said he has requested a discharge from the military after his sexual orientation made him a target for attacks. Pvt. Kyle Lawson said he was punched in the face by a fellow member of the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, a training unit at Fort Huachuca, 75 miles southeast of Tucson, at an off-post party on October 29 after a friend let it slip that Lawson was gay, the Arizona Daily Star reported Sunday. Lawson, a 19-year-old who was training to be an Army interrogator, said he feels he has no choice but to leave the military. "I can't keep living a lie. It's not safe for me here," Lawson said. Lawson said he agreed to an interview with the newspaper so the public can see how the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuality affects people. A move is afoot to repeal the policy, with a bill backed by 100 federal lawmakers, including U.S. representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona, the only openly gay Republican in Congress. The soldier accused of hitting Lawson told police that Lawson made sexually suggestive remarks. Sierra Vista police officer Darryl Scott, who investigated the case, said that "there was no provocation." The Army chose not to prosecute the charge, for reasons fort officials say they are not at liberty to explain. A week after the first attack, Lawson said, a second soldier threatened him with a knife outside a barracks as word spread about his sexual orientation. Police charged Lawson's alleged attacker with felony aggravated assault--a charge that draws an average 3 1/2 years in prison upon conviction in Arizona--or more if a judge finds the crime was hate-based. Lawson told police that the soldier who broke his nose used a profane antigay slur. Fort Huachuca requested control of the criminal case--common when soldiers are charged by civilian police--but didn't prosecute. Fort Huachuca spokeswoman Tanja Linton said that although the Army didn't take the case to court, commanders took appropriate action. She declined to say what action was taken, citing federal privacy laws. Lawson's claim that he was threatened with a knife wasn't substantiated, so no action was needed, Linton said. But out of concern for Lawson, he was told to sleep on a cot under his drill sergeant's watch after the knife report, she said. She said the Army is satisfied that "the soldiers involved did not harbor prejudicial beliefs." Still, Lawson's colleagues received "reinforcement training" stressing respect for each other, Linton said. "Harassment of any type is not tolerated," she said. (AP)

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