Sen. Jack Harper stood up during a discussion on the Senate floor to explain that it was a mistake for President Obama to advocate for changes to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” directive that has kept gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.
Harper, who served in the Army in the late 1980s, recalled that he had been asked to share a room with a soldier who was gay. Harper objected and was assigned to a different room.
Everyone in his unit was aware the man was gay, Harper said, but nobody made a big deal out of it. Looking back, Harper said it shouldn’t have been tolerated.
“We had problems from the beginning because we decided that we would not turn in somebody who is openly serving in the military who was a homosexual-that we knew to be a homosexual.” Harper said. “We tried to be tolerant. It didn’t work. It didn’t work for our platoon. It didn’t work for the First Infantry Division. And it will not work for the United States of America.”
Sen. Paula Aboud, who is lesbian, responded sarcastically.
“I’m just delighted to hear that this person just didn’t attack Senator Harper and that it wasn’t a horrible gay experience,” she said.
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, who is gay, said people should be allowed to serve in the military regardless of their sexual orientation.
“When you are shooting – I think as our late Senator Goldwater stated – all you are looking at is shooting at the enemy,” he said.
That exchange on Jan. 28 was only the most recent in a series of confrontations among Harper, Cheuvront and Aboud. Several times, public disagreements have erupted during debate on issues that impact homosexuals.
In 2008, Harper, presiding over a Senate floor session, turned off the microphones being used by Cheuvront and Aboud while they were trying to filibuster a measure to amend the state Constitution stating that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman.
Cutting off debate allowed the Senate to pass the resolution. The House had passed it weeks earlier. Later that year, voters approve the ballot measure.
The incident on the Senate floor on the final night of the 2008 legislative session led to a complaint against Harper. He later faced a hearing in the Ethics Committee.
The committee found that Harper did not breach any ethical rules when he cut off Aboud and Cheuvront in the middle of debate.
At one point, Harper said turning off the microphones was an accident. Then, when he testified to the Ethics Committee, Harper said he cut them off after witnessing the “transparently dilatory questioning that transpired between the two.”