Confessions of a Gay, Right-Wing Mormon

State Representative Steve May is a walking, talking contradiction

May worked hard for the money. He studied gay and women's issues, and came out as pro-choice. But while he was openly gay, he did not make gay rights a main plank of his campaign platform. Jason Rose, May's former schoolmate, was impressed.

"I for one was not real optimistic about the guy in [District] 26. I thought his race would look opportunistic . . . and I thought his widely publicized outing would also hurt him," Rose says.

"But as it turned out . . . I think he ran the race on his own terms. I think he ran as a more humble candidate, and it came across. He ran a very, very effective, issues-oriented campaign."

May and Quinn continued to get hate mail in '98, and Quinn refused to answer the phone throughout the campaign. May says a gay politician walks a tightrope--trying to stand up for his community but not wanting to be too vocal, for fear he'll be shut down entirely.

"I'm constantly reminding him, 'Get away from the gay thing. Concentrate on other issues and stuff that you want to do,'" Quinn says. "He always says, 'I'm trying, but they keep bringing it up.'"

May's voting record in the House has been schizophrenic.
Recently, he used parliamentary procedure to amend two bills on the House floor and make them palatable to gays.

One of the bills, House Bill 2088, offers tax breaks to people who buy long-term care insurance. The original version stipulated that only spouses and certain family members could receive the tax breaks. May removed that provision, so anyone could benefit from the break--a lesbian buying insurance for her partner, for example.

The other bill, SB1309, increases the maximum penalty for domestic-violence convictions. May altered the language to include domestic-violence victims whose assailants are the same sex.

At the same time, however, May has not stopped voting with the likes of Barbara Blewster and Karen Johnson.

He drew ire from Democrats and moderate Republicans when he cast the deciding vote, in March, for Johnson's bill to switch responsibility for the keeping of vital records from the Department of Health Services to the state library. A companion bill would make the library employees political appointees, and the moderates believed this was a conspiracy to put important records on matters like AIDS and abortion into the hands of a future, "wack" governor.

Sue Gerard called May a slut. Karen Johnson kneeled at his desk, thanking him profusely.

Johnson did not return calls for this story. But Blewster did. She says she has no trouble working closely with May, even though she abhors his sexual preference.

"I'm a Christian. I like people. I accept them as my fellow man," says Blewster. "And it doesn't mean I like all that they do. But I don't harbor grudges against somebody. . . . We don't discuss the issue that separates us. We talk when there's reason for us to talk about other issues."

It's April 8, and the calendar in Steve May's office still says January 11.
No bill is ever truly shelved in the Arizona Legislature until sine die, but today it appears that May's Internet privacy bill is dead. Same for Karen Johnson's anti-domestic partners insurance bill. Speaker Groscost's break for charter schools is still breathing.

Tinky Winky sits on a credenza in May's office. Shortly after James Faulkner's admonition, the toy was kidnaped by a group of Democrats who returned it a few days later with a cigarette in its mouth. May didn't bother to take Tinky Winky back to the House floor.

May is preoccupied, at the moment, with a bill that would divert sales tax from municipalities to pay for the construction of facilities like the proposed Coyotes arena in Scottsdale and Rio Salado Crossing in Mesa.

"These are private businesses who are trying to find loopholes in the law so they can suck the money out of the public treasury instead of raising it on their own and risking their own capital," he says. "They want the public to take on the risk and they want the public to build their own private businesses."

May and Representative Ken Cheuvront, a Democrat, have teamed up to offer a series of amendments to weaken the bill. After a long afternoon on the House floor, most of the amendments pass, only to be stripped minutes later by Groscost's parliamentarianism.

The stadium bill is an example of the power of lobbyists at the Capitol, May says. Even though Cheuvront is the only other openly gay member of the Legislature, the two don't agree on much. But May thinks it's no coincidence that he and Cheuvront felt comfortable teaming up on the stadium bill, against business interests, because, unlike most legislators, these men don't rely solely on big business for campaign cash.

Early on, May says, Cheuvront told him of gay money, "It's the best money. It's free money."

"I have an independent funding base in the gay community," May says. "I don't have to rely on any lobbyists or any special-interest groups. And the gay people who give me money don't give me money so I fight for gay causes. They don't care that you fight for gay causes, they care that you exist. Period, end of story. I don't have to do a single thing."

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