By Lisa Sorg
For more than a decade, you could enter the Saint or the Silver Dollar, two popular gay clubs on Main Street, and rarely, if ever, see a soldier.
Until earlier this month, Randolph and Lackland Air Force bases prohibited its enlisted men and women and officers from patronizing five gay clubs in San Antonio `see box, this page`. The new policy, which came down from the Base Commander at Randolph AFB, allows Air Force personnel to go to the clubs without being investigated for suspected homosexual activity.
This new policy doesn't extend to Army personnel at Fort Sam Houston.
Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which advocates for gays and lesbians in the military, said that these clubs should have been removed from the "off-limits list" in 1993, when Don't Ask, Don't Tell went into effect.
In the SLDN's annual policy report, released in March, the group stated that under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, "associational activities" such as having gay friends, going to a gay bar, attending gay pride events, and reading gay magazines or books aren't considered credible evidence for a commanding officer to investigate a soldier for alleged homosexual conduct.
"Prohibiting service members from frequenting a bar simply because it caters to a gay or alternative crowd is a direct violation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Ralls said, adding the SLDN reported this violation to the Air Force.
On May 12, the Air Force lifted the club ban under pressure from the SLDN, Ralls said.
An Air Force spokeswoman said the Joint Disciplinary Review Board examined the policy as part of a periodic review and determined "it was no longer necessary for these establishments to be off-limits."
According to an Air Force memorandum obtained by the Current, three establishments remain on the off-limits list, "to help maintain health, morale, and welfare of Armed Forces personnel," but not because of homosexual activity. The Air Force alleges these businesses - Crackerbox Palace, Planet K, and X/S either carry illegal drug paraphernalia or have underage drinking. •
By Lisa Sorg