An Iowan who was a naval intelligence specialist with top-secret clearance is part of a national campaign to try to get rid of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
Twenty-seven-year-old James Taylor of Sioux City says if the next president acts to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military, he’ll re-enlist in the Navy. "I wasn’t promoted every single time I was eligible because I was a bad sailor. It was because I was an asset and so to throw someone out of the military because of…their being gay I think is not only a slap in the face of the gay person themself, but is also an injustice to what America, I think, is all about," Taylor says.
Taylor enlisted in the Navy in December of 1999 and became an intelligence analyst. "I was in the military for five years and during that time I was not secretive about my being gay," Taylor says. "A lot of times when you’re off to sea you develop friendships with people and what not, you choose to be genuine and when people get to know you — if you’re geniune — they want to know all about you and I never had any qualms about just being myself."
According to Taylor, it didn’t become an issue until he was having a dispute with a female co-worker and in retaliation she went to their superior and told him Taylor was gay. When Taylor returned from special training at a naval installation in California, he was told of the investigation and discharged.
"I actually graduated first in the class, but it mattered very little when I got back because the issue of my sexual orientation was of more concern," Taylor says. "…(I) pretty much didn’t have a job at that point."
Taylor’s speciality was "imagery analysis" and he estimates the U.S. government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to train him and to conduct background checks before he was given a high-level security clearance. He was dischared in 2005, after that investigation of his sexuality.
"I was discharged not because people cared that I was gay because obviously I was openly gay for five years, but I was discharged because someone was angry at me over an argument and some malicious intent and hurt me and she did," Taylor says. "…That’s one of the things that this policy can do to good gay men and women who serve in the armed forces."
Taylor spoke Tuesday night at a news conference in Des Moines organized by the Human Rights Campaign, which seeks a repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.
Taylor was born in Spencer. His family moved and he ended up graduating from Ames High School. His family then moved to Sioux City, where he now lives, too.