March 18th, 2010
11:15 PM ET
5 years ago

Gay soldier arrested in protest outside White House


Washington (CNN) - U.S. Park Police arrested a gay soldier and another man Thursday after they handcuffed themselves to the fence surrounding the White House in protest of the military's policy preventing gay and lesbian service members from serving openly.

The two men were charged with failure to obey a lawful order after they were warned to remove the handcuffs or face arrest, said Park Police Sgt. David Schlosser.

Schlosser would not name the pair because they had not yet been processed, but video showed that one was Lt. Dan Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate who is fluent in Arabic. Choi admitted his sexual orientation publicly for the first time last year on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," prompting the Army to initiate proceedings to discharge him.

Choi chose to appeal his case rather than accept a discharge. The case is still pending.

The protest coincided with a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the military's "don't ask, "don't tell" policy. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama ordered the Defense Department to begin preparation for a repeal of the policy.

Both Choi, who is currently serving in the New York Army National Guard and is not on active duty status, and the other man were wearing what appeared to be Army camouflage uniforms, which Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg of the New York National Guard said would be a violation of Army rules.

"Utilizing the Army uniform for political speech or political gain is an Army violation," he said.

But, Goldenberg said, without knowing all the facts of the situation, he could not determine if Choi had broken the rule. As a reservist, he said, Choi falls under New York's Uniform Code of Military Justice, which has rules similar to the Army Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Choi was an infantry platoon leader, serving with his unit in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Like many units, his had its yearlong tour extended by three months.

A year ago, Choi, who lives in New York City, founded KnightsOut.org, an advocacy and education organization of West Point graduates who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. More than 50 of its 80 members are openly gay, he said.

KnightsOut, which estimates there are 65,000 gays in the military, said Thursday that Choi is no longer affiliated with the organization.

More than 12,500 gays have been booted from the military since "don't ask, don't tell" went into effect. They include dozens of Arabic speakers, people highly valued by the military since the invasion of Iraq.

At West Point, Choi majored in Arabic and environmental engineering, and he volunteered to lead the cadet chapel choir and officers' Christian fellowship.

Updated: 5:52 p.m.


Filed under: Don't Ask Don't Tell • Extra • Popular Posts • White House
soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. elaine

    This is the same military that is trying to get Iran to treat its citizens with respect. This is the same military that is trying to teach Iraqi sectarian groups not to kill each other. This is the same military that is trying to convince the North Koreans to care for its citizens. This military should lead by example. Do as I say, not as I do.

    March 18, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  2. Brad - Wildomar CA

    Shameful is right... whatever the Lt's beef might be with policy, he swore an oath to obey the UCMJ. Protesting in uniform is conduct unbecoming an officer in the US Military, and grounds for discharge. Service members give up many rights to free speech when they chose to serve. Is he saying that he had his fingers crossed???

    March 18, 2010 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  3. The Calabash Kid

    I was drafted back in the Richard Nixon days. Here is my suggestion: let gays serve openly in the military or recreate the draft. It is my belief that the opposition to gay service would disappear when young men and women and their families realize that we don't have to have a volunteer military

    March 18, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. Todd

    As a former military officer, I commend Lt. Choi, despite the fact that this is a violation of the UCMJ.

    I have seen him on many television interviews, and he exhibits more intelligence, professionalism, and courage than most of the officers and enlisted that I served with. There are very few people who are willing to fight so hard in order to be granted the right to serve (and risk their life for) their country.

    "A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."
    -Gandhi

    March 18, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. .....

    My heart goes out to all our gay men and women soldiers serving or who have served in our country! I say if they can't openly talk about their gay lives, then straights shouldn't be allowed to talk about their personal lives at home either or mention anything sexual in their talks! LET OUR WOMEN AND MEN SERVE!!!! GAY OR NOT!

    March 18, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  6. Scott

    DADT is an exception to current UCMJ. Even if DADT is repealed, it would still be against regulation for gays to serve in the military. Congress needs to change UCMJ if they want to let gays serve openly.

    March 18, 2010 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Ben

    What an idiot! You just blew your case – you might have won it but now you protested in uniform and disobeyed an order. Forget don't ask don't tell – you just set your whole cause back. Now you can and will be dishonorable discharged for conduct unbecoming, disobeying an order and protesting in uniform. You couldn't have been using your brain today. Instead of standing strong you pulled an real boner and let your comrades serving silently down big time!!

    March 18, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    I am gay and served in the military for over 24 years. Might I add it was with honor and pride that I was able to serve and defend my country even in Vietnam era and Desert Shield.
    It's time that American change its policy and let all Americans serve and live their lives without fear.

    March 18, 2010 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  9. Donnatella

    Pulling stunts like this is not making your case any better, it's because of out of control behavior that make people uncomfortable with you guys, personally I don't have a problem with it, if you are willing to fight for our country you should not have to hide your true identity. Being flamboyant does not help you case a good example that skater, he is great on ice, we knew he was gay but he just kept taking it to the next level. This is what scares people.

    March 18, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. Lamar in Dallas, TX

    For all of you who are against having gay people serve in the armed forces, I have a suggestion for you.

    Go watch the videos of the airplanes hitting the twin towers on 9/11and try to remember who the real enemy is.

    Gay soldiers are AMERICANS, dammit!

    How stupid can this country be kicking out a talented solider who writes and speaks Arabic. Duh!

    March 18, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  11. Ajax

    None of this would be necessary if homophobes would mind their own business and stop meddling in the life's of gay people. All the arguments by straight that "gay should just shut up" shows how stupid these anti-gay people really are. When you target a group to be treated differently, you are the one with the problem ... and they should not shut up. They should keep getting louder and louder until you stop doing wrong and treat them equally and fairly.

    March 18, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  12. Wayne Messer

    Protest is the only way you can get the majority to pay attention.

    Of course the right-wing-nut-jobs and the religious fanatics will whine.

    Their views are what we should all follow. We should march in goose-step like the sheep they are. Anyone who would follow rush limbaugh can only follow, never lead and ever have an original idea let alone an intelligent one.

    They keep spewing their hate and intolerants for diversity and trying to dictate everyone else's moral's instead of living their own lives.

    Pity really.

    March 18, 2010 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  13. John Swanagon

    That takes an extreme amount of courage and they should be applauded for it, not vilified. Civil disobedience delivered us civil rights. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and the countless many who staged sit-ins and protests, they changed America. We should be celebrating that. Having said that, these two knew better than to protest in their uniforms. That was inappropriate not to mention very sad to see. I think our Congress should repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and be done with it. Our Armed Forces are better for having blacks and are better for having women. They are better for having gays too. Anyone who stands up and says I will defend this great country of ours deserves our respect and our gratitude. Return that in kind.

    March 18, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  14. Carol

    Lt. Choi is a brave soldier, one of many who have graduated from Military Academys and have served their country with honor. Now it's time for our President Obama and his administration to uphold their honor by doing all that can be done to give the Gay forces the same equality as heterosexual forces under our Flag of America.

    March 18, 2010 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. dan smith

    Who cares!

    March 18, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  16. DeeBee

    Allen: When you were serving, did you ever mention your wife or girlfriend, or did you ever mention to a fellow soldier that you found a particular person of the opposite sex attractive? If so, they you weren't able to shut up either.

    March 18, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  17. dan smith

    Democraps caused this problem-let them deal with it.

    March 18, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  18. floridian

    Lt Choi is a disgrace to West Point and the U.S. Army. He knows full well that he went against the UCMJ by protesting while in uniform. He willingly failed to follow it. Is this the kind of soldier that you want protecting your son's or daughter's six o'clock? One who willingly and openly violates the requirements of the oath of office that he took? What other orders has he or would he fail to keep? Let's not try to make a hero out of a disobedient, self-serving military radical!

    March 18, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  19. jon king

    I'm willing to bet that the president won't be inviting Choi and his friend to the white house garden for a couple of beers. We were of major help putting this man in office with his promises of ending discrimination based on sexual preference. What happened to him after he was elected by US? I like Obama but I'm starting to suspect he's just another career politician. So sad.....

    Jon
    Bartow, Fl

    March 18, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  20. dan smith

    Is this really news?

    March 18, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  21. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Hmmm...an officer who doesn't follow orders. Not someone who should be in the military, IMHO.

    March 18, 2010 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  22. GJ

    What a bold move. I'm certain Choi knew the consequences that would result in his actions, but he is simply making a statement. A lot more than can be said about many of the Americans who post on these blogs from behind computer screens. Our government is "stalling" on the repeal of DADT and needs to happen NOW so we can all get on with our lives.

    March 18, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  23. LacrosseMom

    Repeal Dont Ask, Don't Tell, its silly! God bless you, Lt. Choi!

    March 18, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  24. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    As a gay man, I applaud both for their conviction and bravery.

    March 18, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  25. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    I would think the GOP would learn from these two gentleman that we gays have a way of getting out the message and it only costs the amount of a bail .The grand old boys could get a lot more passed , If they had the gays on their side . Time is coming when tolerence will be the deciding factor when it comes to polictics . Have you ever thought that your own grandchild could have been one of those men arrested . Or even you if you know what I mean, Tap, Tap .

    March 18, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
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