COVER STORY: Patty at 25

Rodd Gray’s drag alter ego, Patti Le Plae Safe, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of  dollars for AIDS and other causes

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

For 25 years now, Rodd Gray has lived a double life: By day, he is mild-mannered hair stylist Hott Rodd the Hair God, but by night he transforms into Patti Le Plae Safe, fundraising super hero.

OK, so Gray isn’t really an undercover super hero who slips into phone booths to change into some blue tights and a red cape. And his drag alter ego, Patti, doesn’t have an invisible jet or a golden lasso.

But since he moved to Dallas 26 years ago, Gray has made an indelible mark on the city’s LGBT community, as both Rodd and Patti.

Destined for Dallas

Gray was born in West Memphis, Ark., and grew up on a farm in tiny Lonoke, Ark. But even as a small child, he knew he was destined to live in Dallas.

“My mama used to tell the story about how she would make me a peanut butter sandwich, and put it in a bag. Then I would take that bag and get on my tricycle and tell her I was leaving for Dallas,” Gray said. “She would stand at the end of the driveway and watch me — she watched me the whole way — and I would pedal down to the end of the lane. Then I’d hide behind the bushes and eat my peanut butter sandwich.”

After awhile, he said, little Rodd Gray would pedal his tricycle back down the lane to his house, where he would “make up some excuse, like, ‘I don’t think the headlights would get me all the way to Dallas in the dark. I’ll just have to get up real early in the morning and leave then.’”

He did, obviously, eventually make his way to Dallas. But it was a roundabout trip.

After graduating from Lonoke High in 1976, he studied business at the University of Central Arkansas, before heading to the University of Maine Presque Isle where he studied computer programming.

Gray ended up enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1979 where he worked as a computer programmer. When he got out, with the rank of staff sergeant, he stuck with what he knew and took a job as a civilian employee computer programmer at the Army base in Fort Hood, Texas.

But by 1985, Gray could no longer resist the siren call of Big D. And in May of that year he took a job, again as a computer programmer, with an insurance company in Dallas.

Almost immediately after moving to Dallas, Gray started looking for ways to get involved in the LGBT community.

Thrilled to have found a church that “accepted me as I was,” Gray said he started attending Cathedral of Hope, located at the time in the building that is now Resource Center Dallas. One day, members of the Dallas Gay Alliance — now the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance — spoke during a church service, talking about the ways that people could get involved by volunteering in the various programs at the new AIDS Resource Center.

Gray said he quickly decided he wanted to work with the visitation committee, headed up by Dr. Douglas Crowder, where volunteers would visit people with HIV, helping them with chores, bringing them food and sometimes even taking them to doctor’s appointments.

Gray said he soon realized that the visitation committee wasn’t the job for him.

“One day, I had just finished changing one man’s diaper — a diaper that obviously had needed changing for quite a while. When I finished, I went outside and sat down and just started crying. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said.

But what could have been a quick end to Gray’s time as a volunteer was instead the beginning of a quarter-century — so far — of service.

The birth of Patti

Crowder encouraged Gray to turn his efforts to writing for the AIDS Resource Center’s monthly newsletter, suggesting that Gray write about safe sex practices and how gay men could have fun without exposing themselves to the risk of HIV infection.

But first, Gray remembered, he got tricked into doing drag for a benefit.

It was 1986, and DGA was organizing the War on AIDS benefit show to be held at Arlington Hall in Lee Park, and some of his DGA colleagues asked Gray to help “choreograph” the show.

“The first number was ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,’ with Phil Johnson and Richard Sink. They asked me to help choreograph it, and I said I wasn’t a dancer, but sure, I’d help,” Gray recalled. “But what they were really doing was tricking me into being in the number.”

Gray said that Bill Nelson, Terry Tebedo, Mike Rogers and others not only talked him into being in the number, but they loaned him the clothes, shoes and makeup he needed, “and I was pretty!”

At first, Gray said, he was reluctant. But then, Tom Davis tipped him with $20, “and I thought, ‘Wowee! They really like me!’”

And that’s when Patti Le Plae Safe was born, although the name didn’t come along until later, when Gray and others in DGA were trying to come up with a name for his column in the Resource Center newsletter.

They considered Connie Condom and Patti Prophylactic — but those just didn’t have the right ring to them. As they considered a name, they would write it down, then when they decided against it, they would tear it up and throw it on the floor.

At one point, Gray said, he looked down at the floor and saw two pieces of paper that had fallen together: Safe Play.

“That was a new term, a new idea back then, ‘safe play,’” he said. “So we thought about it, and came up with Patti Le Plae Safe.”

And so Patti Le Plae Safe began writing the regular “Ask Patti” column, giving advice on things like “how to put a condom on a man without him even realizing it” and other ways to “play safe” and keep the AIDS virus at bay.

And for a year, “Patti” remained, in essence, anonymous; no one knew that Patti was actually Rodd Gray. And he liked that just fine.

“I didn’t want to do drag; it was painful! It makes your feet hurt!” he declared.

But then the United Court of the Lone Star Empire asked for Patti to appear at a fundraising show so the court could give her an award.

“I told them I didn’t do drag, that I didn’t have any of the clothes or anything. And they told me not to worry about it, they would help me,” Gray said. “And once again, Mike Rogers dragged clothes out of his closet for me to wear.”

Within a year, Patti Le Plae Safe was the United Court empress, and was traveling to court events all around Texas — and the country — as a missionary spreading the play safe message and raising money for AIDS causes.

Patti stayed busy at home in Dallas, too. Patti and Dallas Voice gossip columnist Heda Quote — Rex Ackerman, who specialized in camp drag to raise money for charity — used their columns to needle one another, taking jibes back and forth, as a way to raise interest in the various charity events they each participated in.
“Back then, we were doing shows almost every night,” Gray said. “Sometimes, we’d do seven shows in one night, keeping on the same clothes and taking our CDs from one bar to the next.”

He laughed as he told how he drove a Mazda pickup at the time, and more than once, “We’d finish a show at one bar, then all the drag queens would pile into the back of my truck and we’d head off to the next show at the next bar.”

Pageant girl

Although Patti had plenty of experience on stage in charity events as the 1980s came to a close, Gray still had not tried his alter ego’s talents on the pageant circuit, where it wasn’t enough to be entertaining and raise money.

DOUBLE LIFE | By day he’s Hott Rodd the Hair God, right, but by night Rodd Gray morphs into Patti Le Plae Safe.

On the pageant circuit, drag queens had to be much more polished to succeed.

“The pageant girls always looked down on the charity girls,” Gray said. “They would tell us, ‘Oh no, you just need to go back to your benefit shows and leave the pageants to us.’”

But in 1990, Patti entered the Miss Gay Texas pageant “on a dare.” She didn’t place well that year, so she went back the next year — and then the next.
With the United Court standing behind him, Gray said, he continued to improve.

“That third year, I placed 13th, much better than the first two years,” Gray said. “These pageants, they get in your blood. You want to win. But mainly, I wanted to prove that the charity girls were just as good as the pageant girls. I had to prove that I was equal, and that if I was equal, so was everybody else.”

But while Gray was proving himself to the pageant girls, he said he was also learning how to improve Patti.

“After I started entering the Miss Gay Texas pageants, I started becoming a better performer. I grew as a performer,” he said.

In 1995, Gray entered the Miss Gay America pageant for the first time — and he was named first runner-up, placing just behind the winner, Ramona Leger.
Just a few months later, however, Leger passed away, and Patti Le Plae Safe became Miss Gay America.

“She only got to attend one pageant” after her win, Gray said of Legere, “and then I finished out the rest of the year as the titleholder. But I knew it would have been really unfair for me to take that crown, throw it up on my head and pretend that I won it out right, that Ramona had never been there. She had wanted to be Miss Gay America so very much.”

So as Patti traveled the country that year as Miss Gay America, attending pageants and events from coast to coast, she always took Ramona’s crown with her, carrying it on a pillow to represent the man who had won the title but did not live to enjoy it.

“I didn’t want people to forget Ramona. I didn’t want her to be erased” like a previous titleholder from the 1970s, Shan Covington, who had her title removed because the pageant owner didn’t like the way Shan had seemingly disrespected the crown during a parade appearance.

“When I was entering Miss Gay America, I didn’t even know Shan Covington. But he came up to me and said he wanted to help. He helped me prepare for the interview. And I didn’t even know he had been a Miss Gay America!” Gray said.

“I didn’t want people to forget that anymore. I didn’t want people to forget Ramona. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of so many people; none of us would be. We’re a big village here, and I want people to remember that.”

Home for the Holidays

While Gray may be best known for his onstage performances as Patti, he has always done more than just perform. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s — “I’m not sure of the date anymore” — he also “adopted” an apartment at AIDS Services of Dallas’ Revlon House, helping decorate and furnish it for a resident with HIV.
Because of Gray’s bold choice of bright pink walls and accessories, the apartment became well known around town as “the Bubblegum Apartment.”

Through that effort, Gray learned of the many AIDS patients who had relocated to North Texas before becoming ill and who no longer had the means to get back home to be with family.

So Gray and John Gordon, his best friend at the time, established Home for the Holidays, an organization whose sole purpose was to raise money, through events like the Miss Charity America pageant established in 1992, to send those people home.

In those early days, David Taffet — then co-owner of Travel Source travel agency and now a staff writer for Dallas Voice — helped out by arranging the lowest fares possible and getting the tickets, Gray said.

Recently, Gray appeared on Lambda Weekly, the LGBT radio program Taffet also co-hosts on KNON 89.3 FM — to talk about Home for the Holidays’ current projects. A woman Gray called “Miss Lucy” called in that day to thank Gray and Home for the Holidays for the time the organization paid for her to go home to see her family.

“Miss Lucy said she had actually lived in the Bubblegum Apartment, and she said that she had never known who to thank for that trip home,” Gray said, adding that Miss Lucy was one of the rare beneficiaries of the program’s early days who returned to Dallas, began a new regimen of medications and saw her health improve.

“For most of them, that trip was a one-way ticket. They weren’t coming back; they were going home to spend their last days with their families. So we never had a lot of people who were able to come to us afterward and say thanks,” Gray said. “So it was really nice to hear from Miss Lucy.”

For several years, Gray said, Home for the Holidays went through some hard times. The board of directors dwindled to just five members, and fundraisers weren’t bringing in as much money as they had before. Often, he said, when a client asked for help, one of the board members would use his personal credit card to buy the plane tickets, and then wait til the coffers were a little more filled to be reimbursed.

“But we never turned anyone away,” Gray said.

Then last year, for the first time, Home for the Holidays was chosen as a Black Tie Dinner beneficiary. The $24,000-plus the organization received allowed the board to plan and stage bigger and better events — like the recent hand-painted underwear auction and an art auction — that brought in many times more the amount of money that previous, smaller events had raised.

The board has also grown, with 10 members. And Gray said that while the organization has to change with the times, “We’re not going away.”

A new career — and beyond

Just before Patti earned the Miss Gay America crown, Gray said, the insurance company he worked for decided to move its office and relocate its employees to Indianapolis.

“I raised my hand and said, ‘Does it snow there?’ When they said yes, I said I would just take my severance package and stay in Dallas. It was enough for me to live on for two years.”

That gave him the chance to spend a year traveling as Miss Gay America, and to go to cosmetology school and become a licensed hair stylist.

Today, Hott Rodd the Hair God does all right for himself. He has his own salon, located on Royal Lane at Preston; he has a car; he owns his own home.

And while Patti’s schedule has slowed down considerably from the hectic “seven shows a night” times of the early days, she still keeps busy, too. For the last eight years, Patti has co-hosted GayBingo, benefiting Resource Center Dallas, with Jenna Skyy at Station 4. And more recently, she took on emcee duties for the monthly Viva Dallas Burlesque shows at the Lakewood Theater. The shows, while not the first place you might think to find a drag queen, have given Patti the chance to take her message to a new audience, and audiences, Gray said, have responded well.

Gray described himself as an independent person who can take care of himself, and who also wants to try to help take care of others, too. It’s a philosophy that grew, he said, from his Orange Power, the name he has for his personal spirituality that grew out of a blend of what he saw as the best teachings from more traditional teachings.

“I just think of it as this warm, orange glow that surrounds me and protects me, and that makes me want to keep doing the right thing,” Gray said. “That’s what it’s about, really: doing the right thing. Paying it forward.

“I watched that movie, Pay It Forward, back when it came out, and it really changed my life,” Gray continued. “That’s what I had always tried to do anyway, but that movie really made me think about it, really made me recommit myself to that.”

Gray said he “stopped counting” years ago, but that he estimates that Patti Le Plae Safe, in all her incarnations and at events around the country, has raised “well over $1 million” for charity through the years. But he is also quick to add that it’s not the amount that’s important; what’s important is that he tried.

“That’s what I tell everybody who asks me: It doesn’t matter how much time you give, just give some time. It doesn’t matter how much money you raise, as long as you contribute something. There’s a spot out there for everybody who wants to do something. You just have to try to do the right thing, try to pay it forward.”

Gray said if he has one regret, it’s that he has yet to find that special someone to share his life with, and he admitted that maybe Patti was a big reason for that.
“I’m married to Patti, really. And there’s not much I can do about that,” he laughed. “It’s going to take a really special guy to put up with both me and Patti.” After a pause, he added, “He’s Keanu Reeves, by the way!”

But despite the disadvantages of leading his double life and the demands of his alter ego, Gray said he has no plans to change.

“I’m not about to give up Patti. I believe Patti saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today, healthy and not HIV-positive, without her,” he said. “Patti rules the world. I’m just the host.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Looking for Jack Borden’s family. Can you help?

Jack Borden

I received a call this afternoon from a Marilu Thorn, a social worker with the Dallas Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Unit who is trying to find family of longtime LGBT community activist Jack Borden.

Jack is having some health issues, and Ms. Thorn wants to locate any of his relatives who could help out with the situation.

I have known Jack for years, and I think I remember him talking to me about his son and his grandson. But I have no idea what their names are or where they might live. From what Jack told me back in 2006 when he was running for the Texas House of Representatives, he is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Texas in 1975 after serving in the U.S. Air Force. He told me he was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Knights of Columbus.

Ms. Thorn has asked that anyone with any information at all call her office at 214-671-3497. If she doesn’t answer, please leave a message.

—  admin

With the world on his fingertip, gay Latino Dallas activist Jesse Garcia becomes a radio host

Jesse Garcia (From KNON.org)

We’ve always known the nearly universally loved Jesse Garcia was bound for stardom, although we admit we assumed it would be in politics. But for now, at least, it looks like it’ll be in, of all things, radio.

Garcia, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and current president of the city’s thriving gay LULAC council, will host The Jesse Garcia Show — 60 minutes of Latino news talk and entertainment — during the drive time on Thursdays, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on KNON 89.3 FM.

From the show’s website:

Your host Jesse Garcia looks forward to empowering and entertaining you. Garcia has spent the last decade making Dallas a more tolerant city. Since 2000, this community activist has championed civil rights causes, registered voters and built bridges among communities.

One of his proudest achievements was helping organize an effort to get a street named after Cesar Chavez in downtown Dallas. Today, he enjoys mentoring youth in Oak Cliff and serves on boards for nonprofits, as well as Hispanic and Gay civil rights organizations.

Garcia is originally from the Frontera, born and raised in Brownsville, Texas . He was educated in San Antonio, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Our Lady of the Lake University and a master’s degree in communications arts from St. Mary’s University. For the last 15 years he has worked as a public affairs specialist for the federal government, promoting the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Peace Corps and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both his academic and professional careers have centered on media, which have prepared him for his next role: Radio Talk Show Host.

—  John Wright

‘A’ gay

Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl has choice words about the Obama Administration and DADT, and the editing on his Logo series ‘The A List: New York’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Reichen Lehmkuhl
THAT’S CAPTAIN QUEER TO YOU! Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl is an avid skier, and spokesman for the inaugural Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week in Crested Butte, Colo., next March.

SHOOT THE BUTTE
Dish at the ilume,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
Nov. 5, 6–8 p.m. Free.
MatthewShepardGaySkiWeek.com.
Reichen will also host a
meet-and-greet at Woody’s,
4001 Cedar Springs Road,
Nov. 5 at 10 p.m.

…………………………..

If all you know about Reichen Lehmkuhl is what you see in reality shows — he won Season 4 of The Amazing Race, and is currently one of the “gay housewives” on Logo’s The A List: New York — then you’re missing a lot of what drives him.

Formerly an airman in the U.S. Air Force, Reichen (nobody uses his last name) is an outspoken advocate for gay rights, especially the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And on this election week, he has some choice words for the Obama Administration.

“What Obama has done is disappoint all of his voters and really squandered away all of our affection,” Reichen says without hesitation, reflecting his displeasure that the president — after claiming a desire to repeal DADT, nevertheless appealed a California court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. “He made a choice he didn’t have to make — one of process over basic values. And he flat-out lied about what his values are. He said he thought all gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve, and when the opportunity was presented to him without any effort at all, he did not support it.”

Reichen knows that, especially within the gay community, his harsh words about the country’s top Democrat might not be popular. But he has too much invested in this issue to remain silent.

“I’m getting a lot of hate mail,” he admits. “I think [some] people are being apologists and are blinded because they are afraid of looking like they don’t support [Obama]. But for those of us on the front lines — and I am — it has just been awful. And I just won’t be an apologist for the president.  I won’t do it. You can’t apologize for people who swore to do what they say they will and don’t.”

He was especially confused when, immediately after the Pentagon announced it would accept openly gay military applicants, the Justice Department filed its appeal in the lawsuit, even though the deadline to appeal (if at all!) was more than a month away. Reichen says the decision was basely political before the midterm elections.

“The day the president appealed the decision, I was asked to go on MSNBC the next day, but I was so baffled I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say something wrong, so I turned down the request.”

All this is a far cry from why Reichen will be in town this week: Promoting Shoot the Butte, a gay ski week starting next year in Crested Butte, Colo., for which Reichen is a spokesperson and attendee (he’s a huge snowbunny, and in fact a certified ski instructor). But the ski event is actually in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, for which he is a strong supporter.

And even talk of Judy Shepard steers him back to politics. As a former servicemember, Reichen firmly believes that people have lost sight of the easiest way to advance gay rights: Just let the discharges stop.

“If you stop the discharges and let people come out and say, ‘I am a professional and you can’t assume I am not because I am gay’ … once that happened for 30, 60 days, it would be impossible to reverse the decision,” he says. “Just [this week], the administration ordered that DADT is back in effect so the discharges are continuing.”

He sighs. You can tell it’s something he internalizes and takes very personally.

“I’m really worried about what the president did to the support of so many gay people. He really just slapped us all in the face. He is political and doesn’t believe in equality for LGBT people. If this had been a race issue, would he have put politics before values? No, he wouldn’t. It shows how low he thinks of us as a community.”

You might not expect such political passion from someone best known for playing himself on TV, especially in light of the persona he projects on The A List. But even there, Reichen has his criticisms. When I say he comes off as a jerk on the show, he immediately says, “I hope you put that in your article.”

“I’ve tried to explain that even to the producers,” he says. “What you’re seeing is what they wanna show. They say I’m not gonna come off as a jerk as the later episodes air [but we’ll see]. You see me hit on a guy in a club, but what you don’t see is this guy is a friend of mine for 13 years. And the editing with Austin makes it look like we had some big, long relationship — we spent one day together [in Palm Springs]! I kept in touch with him by text, but that’s it. He says I have a small cock and am a bad cocksucker. The guy’s never seen my cock and I’ve never been near between his legs!”

The show also makes it look like his relationship with boyfriend Rodiney is doomed. He’s contractually forbidden from saying where they stand, although he does reveal, “I saw him this morning. And we love each other very much — I can say that much.” (Not so for Austin, whom he says he ignores now.)

What he does say is not wrong about the editing on the show is what we learned this past week: Reichen looks hot in a dress.

“This is a big secret, but I love to do drag!” he says. “I totally get why drag queens do what they do. I have so much fun, though I look better when I do my own makeup. I have complete anonymity [when I go out in drag] and people are scared of me.”

Scared of him? Sounds like that could be an advantage against an enemy in battle. And maybe one more reason Reichen can list to bring down “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Reid sets DADT vote

Unless measure passes before November elections, Republican gains could mean an end to repeal possibilities for the time being

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@me.com

Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night
MAKING A POINT | Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night, Sept. 12, with three former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who resigned from the academy to protest the anti-gay policy. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday, Sept. 13, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring the defense spending bill with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal measure to the floor next week.

Reid himself confirmed the decision in a post on Twitter, in response to a call by pop star Lady Gaga following MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Sept. 12.

Gaga attended the awards show with three LGBT former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who left the academy in protest over the policy.

The four were U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hall, former U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy, former U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Stacy Vasquez and former West Point cadet Katie Miller, all members of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The pop star then spoke about the importance of repealing DADT during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres after the VMAs.

The following day, Gaga sent a Tweet to all her followers urging them to contact Reid and urge him to schedule a Senate vote on repeal. Reid responded with a Tweet saying the vote had been scheduled for this coming week.

The decision — if it sticks — is an important step forward for activists hoping to repeal the federal law that bans openly gay servicemembers from the military.

Many political observers are predicting that Republicans could take over the majority in the Senate and/or House at the mid-term elections. Such a development would almost certainly kill any chance of repeal for DADT during President Barack Obama’s first term.

The DADT repeal language was attached to the annual bill that authorizes Department of Defense spending. The language calls for repeal of the military’s ban on gay servicemembers to begin after the Secretary of Defense receives an “implementation report” he has asked for, due Dec. 1, and after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff have signed a statement certifying that they have considered whatever recommendations are made in the report, prepared the necessary regulations to accompany repeal, and certified that repeal is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

Fiscal year 2011 begins Oct. 1. With the congressional clock ticking down the last days of fiscal year 2010, the pressure is on to finish off remaining budget bills authorizing spending and appropriating FY 2011 monies.

If Congress fails to settle its budget bills by the end of FY 2010, it has the option of passing “continuing resolutions” — bills that simply set the next year’s fiscal budget at the same levels as the current year.

According to the New York Times, the Senate typically spends about two weeks on the defense spending bill. Last year’s defense authorization bill was passed by the Senate in July, but it took lawmakers more than two months to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions.

So, there is no certainty that DADT will, in fact, come up during the first week or that it will even get a vote before FY 2010 runs out.

Meanwhile, when the defense authorization bill does come to the floor and the Senate begins debate on the language seeking to repeal DADT, the debate is expected to be vigorous, at least from opponents.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans have made clear they are steadfastly against repeal. The question is whether Democrats believe support for repeal could lose them votes during the mid-term elections, and potentially control of Congress.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Airman reaches deal to block discharge under DADT

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho aviator has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to temporarily block his discharge under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bars openly gay and lesbian military members from service.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says an agreement reached Monday, Aug. 16 prevents the Air Force from discharging Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach until a judge can consider its request for a court order to stop his ouster from the military.

The network, an advocacy group seeking equal treatment of gays in the military, is representing Fehrenbach in his legal fight to keep his job and last week filed a federal lawsuit in Idaho.

The lawsuit asks for an order to stop the Air Force from discharging Fehrenbach until a full hearing can be scheduled. It also wants the law declared unconstitutional.

—  John Wright