Walking Into The Future Of Marriage EqualityJune 21st, 2012 4:23 pm Connie Schultz
Lancelot Francioni was 17, a senior in high school, when he continued a long family tradition of enlisting in the Army. Five years later, the Army ordered Pfc. Francioni to leave after a doctor treating him for a skin rash caused by chiggers in the field outed him as a homosexual to his commanding officer. The doctor did this even though Francioni had denied being gay when asked.
At first, Francioni lied about his sexual orientation to the group of officers grilling him. More than anything, he wanted to stay in the Army.
“But then they left me alone to ‘think it over,’” he said. “I was secluded in a little office, bawling my eyes out. When they came back, I told them the truth. I didn’t want to go to jail for who I am.”
He emphasized the distinction: “For who I am, not what I am. What I am is a soldier. My love for my country is beyond belief, and there is no greater honor than to lay down my life for my country. Who I am is a gay man — a gay man who loves his country.”
And soon, he said, he’ll be a gay man who is back in the Army he still loves.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends in this war,” he told me on the phone a few days later as he drove an 18-wheeler through Kentucky on his way to Birmingham, Ala. “I’m a soldier. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (email@example.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.