March 18th, 2010
11:15 PM ET
13 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 • Extra • Popular Posts • White House
soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Marshall K. Flowers

    While persons of different sexual preferences have served in the military for years, the military leadership should be ashame of themselves for promoting fear of homosexual preferences. While I was a ttudent in the U.S. Sergeant Majors Academy, leadership attempted to impose on this military institution of learninh homophobia with Gen. Colin Powell leading te March siding with "Don't ask , don't tell." When willmilitary leadership defend what is right. All Americans deserve to serve their country. Sexual preferences is no more of a factor than the color of a person's skin. I've served with homosexuals and racial bigots. Needless to say, we don't ask racial bigots "whether they discriminate?" Military Servicemembers are brave, determined, and adaptable. They follow orders of leadership and it is civilian (Republicans) that seem to fear every American should be free from discrimination. Actually, Mr. Anf Ms. Republican. In combat, no one cares about sexual preferences, the most important consideration is protecting you and other brave servicemembers. Why can't Americans live up to its creed "All ____are created equal." Isn't that is what make us great.

    March 18, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. jose

    good for them!
    what would happen if all homosexuals just got up and left the military? those left would be crying about it in the future when they start realizing that there are in need of help

    March 18, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  3. Tom

    How dare they arrest these brave GAY servicemen! It is disrespectful and the White House should be ashamed!

    March 18, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |

    Imagine, in this time of war with arabs, we would actually get rid of a decorated soldier who graduated West Point of all places and he happens to be fluent in Arabic, next time there is a terror attack in America and the intelligence communtiy dosen't know about it because none of them speak arabic we'll know why.

    March 18, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    COnsidering everything our soldiers do for this country, it is absolutely egregious that they are condemned just for being gay. Despicable that our government would even allow this, and even more disgusting that homosexuals need to keep their mouths shut to serve for our so called "America."

    March 18, 2010 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  6. JOE

    Choi just lost BIG TIME.....If he is ever arrested again in any U.S. milirary uniform he should be be put away for 10 years. Is this the kind of TRASH West POINT IS putting out now??? General Patton just rolled over in his grave.

    March 18, 2010 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  7. famous by right

    I will make this simple and short. This is crap that people can't be themselves. This men and women that are gay service in the military just like everyone else. They give their blood sweat and tears for this country. What does it matter to the next person what they are as long as they are not coming on to you, or failing to do their job. People better wake up and see everyone on this earth is human and has different belief's and likes. It may very well one day be one of them that save the man or woman or the city,state, or country life one day. Times have changed get over it. People kill me when they speak of gays and lesbians you don't know how many people you interact with everyday that are and some are your friends, family and you are clueless. They are the same people they bleed the same color of blood as you and one thing is for sure. They were born into the world like you and they will check out of the world when its time just like everyone else. Grow up everyone.

    March 18, 2010 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  8. MH, San Antonio, TX

    People who want to serve their country shouldn't have to suffer being discriminated against, or deny who they are, or live a double life. America needs everyone it can get who wants to defend this nation, and we shouldn't allow outdated beliefs and hateful people stuck in the 19th century to keep anyone from serving the nation. DADT needs to go.

    March 18, 2010 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  9. Wolfe

    If a soldier is willing to give his life to fight for the rights under the Constitution, those same rights should apply to soldiers who fight to defend them.

    Enough is enough. If America is suppose to lead the way, why are we so far behind other industrialized nation when it comes to this and other issues.

    March 18, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  10. Walter Rochester

    It is specially important BECAUSE they ARE gay that they be discharged promptly from the military services. This behavior is unbecoming of a United States service man/woman.

    March 18, 2010 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. Dan

    I served my country for 6 years and I feel the pain that these military service men and women go thru. Anyone of you who have not walked in their jungle/jump/whatever boots, have no right to make ignorant remarks.

    These people are willing to put their lives on the line for you, but you don't think they should be honest military service men and women. Honesty is part of being a good soldier. You contradict yourself.

    Lt. Choi did what he did knowing that he crossed the line to bring to the public's attention of the lack of change that many military's in the world all ready are open-minded to. And to Lt Choi and the other unnamed soldier, be strong and be proud of serving your country and being gay.


    March 18, 2010 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  12. Michael

    While I admire Lt. Choi, and believe the policy should be open to anyone regardless of sexual orientation, I hope he does not think he will be able to stay in now. If he was a commander, and one of his Soldiers does something moral, but against the UCMJ, what can he do to him/her? Also, while I am for the policy change, I am against people who have never served all gung-ho for LT Choi. If you haven't served because you had "better things to do," or you are just a plain wuss, do not think that you have a clue to the way the military operates.

    March 18, 2010 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
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