March 19th, 2010
09:21 AM ET
8 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, 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 • White House
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Andrew

    BRAVO to these brave soldiers! They are the very definition of honor and courage in the face of adversity! Gays have bravely fought for this country since the Revolutionary War. It's time to end the ignorance, fear, and hate. America proudly salutes you gentlemen for fighting for what is right!

    March 19, 2010 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  2. Sean

    Openly gay men and women are a detriment to the operational effectiveness of the US Military. Our fighting soldiers already have plenty to worry about (like the next firefight, if the next IED will kill them, their families10,000 miles away) without this politically correct nonsense. I was a heterosexual soldier in the US Army for 8 years, and I kept my sex life it should be. Why should gay soldiers be any different?

    March 19, 2010 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  3. Marie MD

    I don't agree with the way they went about it but unfortunately this is what gets attention.
    I guess Lt. Choi's sex orientation and his ability to speak Arabic (a must to combat terrorists – 19 of the 20 on 9/11 – LET'S NOT FORGET THAT!) is more important to the Army and the safety of our country.
    I don't get it!!!

    March 19, 2010 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  4. Rich

    This is the act of a brave patriotic American. He is to be admired.

    March 19, 2010 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  5. Bob R., Lanham, Maryland

    Choi shoulda been arrested, faced a court martial for violation of Title 10 of US Code, and executed for desertion. He abandon his post in a time of war. He is a disgrace to the uniform. He is not representative of the gay/lesbian community.

    March 19, 2010 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  6. Barbara Independent in NY

    It's sad that in 2010 any American, let alone someone that serves to defend this country, has to go to this length to be given equal rights as a human being.

    March 19, 2010 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  7. Luis Vera

    I support them 100% and so should the rest of America.
    As you heard on the video they were hand cuffed to goverment property. But aren't soldiers already goverment property when you sign up to defend your country.
    It is a shame in the eyes of the world that us the free world aren't really free. So if we step up for our rights and rights to defend our country we are taken down because of our sex preference.
    Shame on or goverment and our country.

    March 19, 2010 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  8. remco

    What a stupid country you have there! arresting soldiers for being gay?? thats almost the same as your former general John Sheehan, who got it out of his mouth to say that the mass killing in sebrenica happend because the Dutch army has gay soldiers!! a country like the US should grow up and be a big boy in the world, you dont even have a healthcare program for everyone! I´m not gay so its not a personal matter to me, but the way the US is doing now, shame, shame, shame!
    Remc van der Meer
    The Netherlands

    March 19, 2010 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  9. Brian from washington

    Good for them! It's an unjust policy and needs to be abolished! The irony is, of course, that the very people who have fought for right for free speech, by virtue of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" have been denied

    March 19, 2010 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  10. Todd

    Aren't they in the process of getting rid of Don't Ask? It was a landmark reform when Clinton enacted it. It was all that was possible in the face of conservative opposition then. Sort of like helath care right now. However, societal attitudes have changed significantly sine 1993. Remember that Ellen Degeneres was vilified by the right - newt gingrich called her "Ellen Degenerate" because she kissed a woman on her sitcom. Conservatives droe Ellen off the air for that kiss back in the 1990s. Now she is America's sweetheart and not too many people care that she is gay. That is how societal attitudes evolve.

    So it will be with universal health care. Whe this bill passes Sunday it will be proof that we the people can actually take on the big business interests that seek to control us like serfs. It is our country, our government, our economy, our lives. we re not the personal piggy bank of insurance companies. For all the efforst of conservatives to return the United States to the bad old days of the 19th century we continue to move forward toward the ideals that make our country great.

    March 19, 2010 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  11. Jer

    Gay or not this act alone is enough to discharge them!!

    March 19, 2010 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  12. Repeal the Law

    Men of honor have to disgrace themselves to prove a point. To be honest with you, DADT is a hypocritical law. One of the core values of the Armed Services is INTEGRITY.

    March 19, 2010 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  13. Doug

    I hope it was worth it for LT Choi. Because we, in the military, are prohibited, by regulation, from protesting or attending political rallies in uniform. He may have just given the Army a way to dismiss him from service without having to use Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I can't say I support him or others that are gay serving openly but when you're so close to getting what you're fighting for why would you do such a thing?

    March 19, 2010 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  14. Willy Brown

    Didn't follow the UCMJ, gay or not.

    March 19, 2010 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  15. D.H

    It is all disturbing the real Christian populations and their believes GOD'S word in the BIBLE.

    Why the Majorities of Gay populations and Gay recruitors around the Globe are Jewish or their descendants???

    March 19, 2010 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  16. Megan1234

    Hope of the free because of the BRAVE!

    March 19, 2010 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  17. chris L

    HOOAH keep it up sir, I stand behind you; while I am not gay I understand what discrimination feels like, especially in the Army. I have made the vow not to reenlist until everyone no matter creed, gender and orientation is able to join...

    March 19, 2010 08:43 am at 8:43 am |