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. juge

    This country needs Lt Choi. All his education and abilities should and could be used for the benefit of the country in the Armed Services. Who cares what his orientation – east, west, north or south – Latitude or Longitude. He is a good man, a bright man and we need people like him. How dumb can we continue to be and stay at the top of our game. Not for long. Down Down Down

    March 18, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  2. Benny in IL

    If they are gay they shouldn't be in the military. It's simple.

    March 18, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  3. Old guy

    Choi, I sympathize, but you knew the rules when you joined the game. We are, after all, talking about the freakin' Army. I'm disgusted by all the homophobic twits in the military and society in general. All those good Christians who hate and condemn gays are going to be really surprised after they die and wake up in hell in the same cells as Nazis and hate spewing Muslims. We needed you, Lieutenant, and I'm sorry you're out of the military. Yes, DADT needs to go, Choi should be reinstated, and America needs to grow up.

    March 18, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. Brian Olson

    Bill Clinton promoted "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and signed DOMA into law. Stop giving the Democrats a pass.

    March 18, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    why does he/she feel the need to advertise gay/queer or straight....

    what does this have to do with protecting me............

    if the gay community was mature enough and not expect special treatment then this would be no big deal..............before your know it we would have ome freak show gay pride march across an aircraft carrier

    why do gays feel the need to advertise their perverted sexual preference? i dont go around advertising i love fat black chicks

    March 18, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    "In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't." – Mark Twain

    He did not disgrace the uniform. By the above criterion, he is a patriot of this country. No person under the stars is more worthy of wearing the uniform, than a true patriot of this country In the face of adversity, he showed courage, and that makes him mighty.

    At the same time, he broke the law (UCMJ for those in the military) and was caught. Now he will be persecuted. No one in the US Military would act as he did, and expect otherwise. I wish him the best and God Bless, because where he is going, he will need it.

    March 18, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  7. Brandon V in DFW

    Lt. Choi I believe has just sealed his fate. His commander had delayed the decision on his discharge and invited him back to participate with his unit and now he does this.

    I'm sorry Choi, your sweet and nice, but this was a boneheaded move. As Laverne said earlier, this administration is actually trying to do something about DADT, looking into repealing the policy. Whereas the previous administration did nothing and this is the thanks this administration gets. Again a boneheaded move Choi.

    March 18, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  8. JamesStone

    Why is CNN the only major network in this country that covered this story?? This reminds me of the "Equality March" last year when thousands of Americans marched in Washington, DC and the news media basically ignored it..like it was a non-event.

    March 18, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  9. BadFrog

    VIOLATION OF A DIRECT ORDER..simple enough. the military is not a Social Experiment..it's sole purpose is 'TO KILL PEOPLE AND BREAK THINGS"

    March 18, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. Pamela Porter

    It is past time for DON'T ASK DON'T TELL to be over. I was not a good idea from the beginning. We are Americans, thats all a person has to be.

    I am proud of him. That is how things finally get noticed. He is brave and thank goodness there is still people willing to take everyone else's heat. Stand up and really take care of business instead of letting others do what most people are afraid to do.

    Austin, TX

    March 18, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  11. Dawn Ada, Oh

    Good for him!!! Keep yelling brother!!! March on Washington and perhaps "don't ask, don't tell" will become a thing of the past!!

    March 18, 2010 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  12. Ken in NC

    I want to see DADT removed so all the members of Congress can come out of the closets and let it be know that they are all idiots.

    While I do support the ending of DADT, I must disagree with the choice Lt.Choi made to wear his uniform in his protest as I am of the opinion that he violated the UCMJ.

    March 18, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. Marty, FL

    I understand peaceful protest for ending the misguided policy of DADT. Please keep the honorable approach within the confines of law and protocol to maintain a more constructive message.

    March 18, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  14. BeezerQ

    Our allies, the British, have been allowing gays to serve in their military since 2000. It really hasn't been a problem there.

    The US is not so different, it's time to allow them to serve their country.

    March 18, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. Nicky

    DADT needs to GO. It's cost the taxpayers money and Money is so tight right now that this country can not afford to replace a Gay, lesbian or intersex solider, sailors, airmen, coasties and marines. Right now were fighting a war on terrorism and we need all hands on deck for this one regardless if they are gay or straight.

    March 18, 2010 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  16. Julie

    If I lived near D.C., I would put on a camouflage tshirt, and go chain myself to the White House as well. DADT is a mistake and should be repealed. It's ridiculous how GLBTQ individuals will give up their life for Americans that shame them by not reversing DADT. Way to say thank you, America.

    March 18, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. Roy

    First, we dont know if thats his official uniform.. camo is available anywhere. Secondly, Im glad Choi has the balls to do that when the HRC and other groups just sit at dinner parties with politicians begging for repeal and basic civil rights. We've waited long enough and are tired of begging the conservative religious zealots and bigots for rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution..for EVERYone..not just heteros. DADT should have been repealed long ago, and there is NO reason for a review if its feasible..just do it dammit. It's gonna get ugly soon the longer these haters keep up their crap...politician outings, civil disobedience...enough is enough.

    March 18, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  18. John

    If the park police wanted to arrest anyone, they should have arrested that "so called" reported from Fox Propaganda that keep interrupting the President of the United States.

    March 18, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  19. Tonic

    Amazing and wonderful that this man is willing to take the chance and make a statement about the discrimination going on.

    March 18, 2010 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  20. Jasmine in Germany

    Gosh, when will they finally exercise equal rights in the U.S.?

    March 18, 2010 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  21. LouAz

    Dude, or dudette, or whatever , you're "protesting" the wrong branch of the Government. Guess Lt. Choi never took US History or any classes about the US Constitution in high school or West Point. His "battle" is with the Legislative Branch of the US Government who made DADT a LAW. He should know better.

    March 18, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  22. Kirsten

    Although some may sympathize with these men, the fact remains that they broke the law. And that is never okay.

    March 18, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  23. Brian from NC

    He is a disgrace to his uniform, his unit, and the men he leads. He knew full well what the policy was when he entered the service. As a member of the military, we don't get to pick and choose which regulations to follow. We don't get to openly protest in uniform. Our job is to serve until released from service.

    Even if he had a valid point (which he doesn't), all his credibility flew out the window when he went against the law.

    March 18, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  24. Bleux

    As a veteran myself, I would like to say thank you to these 2 men for standing up for what they believe in; for fighting for their fellow soldiers in EVERY capacity. I recognize that a soldier is not to be politically active while in uniform, but in this instance I understand their decision. Lt. Choi, I am honored to have you as a brother in arms. Don't give up! Freedom is not only won on the battlefield. And to all the nay-sayers: A soldier should never have to forgo his or her identity or humanity to serve their country. Soldiers are trained to handle anything and there are still people in this country that think they can not handle a fellow soldier being gay?!? It is an insult to their intelligence and professionalism. If you choose to be a homophobe, why don't you do it quietly?

    March 18, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  25. LoveThyNeighbor

    If we cannot be accepted in America and be treated the same as you "normal" folk, DON'T TAKE OUR TAXES!!! WE pay just like you do and if we aren't "Citizens" then, leave OUR $$$ to us and see how much YOU like it...SAM

    March 18, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
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