'Tour of Duty' brings back painful memories Gays ousted from military speak out BALTIMORE CITY

April 23, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Standing in a cold rain at Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza yesterday, Halee Weinstein shook her head in disgust as she listened to stories of gay men and women who have been drummed out of the military.

Each story sparked painful memories of the time in 1985 when she was identified as a lesbian, investigated for a criminal charge of sodomy by her Army superiors at Fort Bragg, N.C., and ordered to resign her commission.

"For many years, almost every night, I've had bad dreams that I'm in the military and something's going to happen to me," she said. "When I was going through the investigation, I had thoughts of committing suicide. I didn't know if my parents were going to reject me. I just saw my life falling apart."

The devastating experience moved Ms. Weinstein, now an assistant city state's attorney, to join the drive for President Clinton's proposal to lift the ban on gays in the military.

Shortly after he took office, Mr. Clinton announced that he would sign an executive order lifting the ban. The backlash led him to delay the order for at least six months.

Ms. Weinstein was one of about 25 people who showed up in front of City Hall for the rally sponsored by the Campaign for Military Service. The event was part of the 32-city "Tour of Duty" -- organized by supporters of lifting the ban.

The bus tour was to make its final stop in Washington today, before Sunday's gay rights march in downtown Washington that activists expect to draw thousands. A rally to support lifting the ban is set for 8 a.m. Monday at the Pentagon.

On the tour, speakers have highlighted the traumatic effects of being gay and in the military.

OC "What I went through was the worst experience of my life, and I

want to do what I can to make sure that another person doesn't have to go through what I had to," Ms. Weinstein said.

"Public opinion wavers a lot, but that is because of a genuine lack of understanding," said Alan Stephens, a teacher at Baltimore's Diggs Johnson Middle School and an organizer of the Tour of Duty. "There is going to have to be a long-term education on this issue."

"It is appalling and disgusting that this discrimination is still going on," said Iver Nielsen of Jessup, a former Air Force officer who resigned five years ago "because I couldn't lie any longer."

John Bessling, a Korean War Navy veteran and a retired Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. employee, attended the rally because he is against lifting the ban.

"I don't think that the gays are as qualified as other people to do the duties I used to do. They are not strong fighters," said Mr. Bessling.

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