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. Laverne

    Lt. Choi just because you are gay, does not mean you have to break the law. It is funny how the former administration did nothing for gays and did not get protesters outside the White House and the current administration has at least taken steps to address the don't ask, don't tell policy. Go figure!

    March 18, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This is a sad day in America for an American soldier.

    March 18, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. Texas Jack

    This is the kind of respect you can figure on this group. No place for them in the Armed services.

    March 18, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. Brian

    All of this for what? Let the guy serve and be done with it. I applaud his courage even though I may not agree with his approach completely. He is probably worth more out of the military then in anyway.

    March 18, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  5. Mickey

    Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" now.

    March 18, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  6. chuck

    If this is what it takes to get mainstream media to focus on American civil rights abuses and expose the military for its institutionalized discrimination of a segment of the American population while at the same time hypocritically attempting to teach Iraqis a thing or two about civil rights, then so be it. If this story had not have happened today, we would have been subjected to Sarah Palin's visit to the beauty shop, veterinarian or photos of her taking her trash out to the curb. Focus attention where it ought to be and keep gutter sensationalism of the Palin family out of the news forever. Go CHOI!!!!!!!!!!

    March 18, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. rita

    Every so often a true charismatic person rises up out of the rigid status quo that we call America and points out the obvious to the religiously blinded fools who govern it. Bless you Choi!!!!!

    March 18, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Texas Jack

    The appropriate thing to do here would be the Security Guards, Secret Service needs to come by and put their handcuffs on all four arms and four legas then leave them out there for a week or two.

    March 18, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. A. Goodwin

    America: Wake up! We need these service men and women to serve our nation. Why should we care about their sexual orientation? If you even say morale of the other soldiers – not a good excuse! Not when I go to work every single day and it doesn't matter if my coworker is gay or not! I dont CARE if they have to shower or change in the same area...still not a good excuse. If a soldier is being offensive or being inappropriate – nomatter if they are gay or not the Army should investigate. Otherwise, seriously – what is the harm?

    March 18, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. jules sand-perkins

    DADT is outdated.
    It's time for America to move into the twenty-first century.

    March 18, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  11. steve

    If only he could have encouraged some heterosexuals to stand with him. Heterosexuals don't fully understand that when one section of our society is openly discriminated against by our government, then we are all a heartbeat away from the same unfair, illegal and unjustifiable treatment. Organized religion is losing its death grip on squeezing the very life and spirit out of our gay children. They are equally eligible for the untold opportunities available in the military. Too many are recognizing opportunities that are limited to heterosexuals only and taking a stand. Why our Congress hasn't had the balls to act before now is unbelievably short sighted and future generations will not understand our insistence on lifting up those that can procreate with reckless abondon and those that choose not to.

    March 18, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. JoJo

    I don't know if that was a good idea. Now, we are not to ask, because we know.

    March 18, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  13. jay1975

    LT Choi is a disgrace to the uniform. The UCMJ strictly prohibits service members from protesting while in uniform. Now he will not only face a discharge, but prison time as well.

    March 18, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. joe smith

    too bad we can not view this story on Fox news, as those in charge of filtering in the US, are finally able to do what they please to a Free society..destroy it..

    March 18, 2010 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    The republican homophobes (some of them gay themselves if truth be known) have cost our military a lot of excellent men and women with this "salem witch hunt" rule of theirs.

    It doesn't need to be studied for a year. It's been happening since the Civil War.

    Get DADT out of the way and let our young people serve.

    March 18, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Doris V

    All I want to say is that I hope the policy is changed and that Lt. Choi wins his case against him being discharged. If he is one of the men arrested, he has more guts than most people. He is willing to do something not just complain.

    March 18, 2010 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  17. kyle

    Let's see. What would be worse? Wearing a uniform for political purposes or kicking 65,000 eligible people out of the military for who they choose to love. The answer is simple. The military says that they are going to interview gay servicemen and women before deciding on the don't ask, don't tell policy, but if any of these people talk, they will be breaking the insane law. How will you convince them to talk. This is a catch-22 situation and the stupid military has painted themselves into a discriminatory corner of their own making. Would you want someones life and career ruined because he winked at you? If so, then you have issues and you need to mature, see a therapist and come to terms with your own problems. The reason they don't want gays in the military is because they can't protect them from heterosexual bullies who are currently raping female service members at incredible rates that even surpass civilian statistics. That is the real issue.

    March 18, 2010 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. DaMav

    They have known Choi was ineligible since last year but the Obama Army hasn't booted him. This is what we can increasingly expect - flagrant disregard for orders and the law, and acting out of the homosexual agenda in public. If they don't enforce DADT when it is the law, imagine the kind of antics we are going to get when it is repealed.

    The left's agenda here has nothing to do with anyone's 'rights' and everything to do with destroying military effectiveness. And clearly it has already begun. With the fawning media cheering them on.

    March 18, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  19. Ender

    To you folks that think he did this "the wrong way".

    Civil disobidience is an acceptable way to challenge a law in the courts.

    Always has been, always will be.

    Learn some history.

    March 18, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  20. Bill of Florida

    As a veteran who is heterosexual, I think the time for Don't Ask Don't Tell has come and gone. We are a civilized nation with a great deal of growing diversity, but we live in a dangerous world where we are hated for our freedoms. God forbid that we should turn away those who want to help us defend our freedom. If they broke the UCMJ to protest, they can be held accountable for that, but should the military prosecute them? In this case, I have to say "No." This discrimination is based on their sexual orientation, but it is no less egregious than descrimination based on gender, race, or religion. We have a choice to make right now, and I hope we'll make the right one for our own good.

    March 18, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  21. les

    Alexander the Great was gay, Genghis Khan was bi. Whats the big deal? Repeal this and let all who want to serve this country be true to themselves and others.

    March 18, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  22. Greg K., PA

    It's long overdue that DADT got repealed. These neanderthal bigots need to go the way of the dinosaur. Go lt. Choi! Don't stop til the fight for equality is won!

    March 18, 2010 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  23. leonardofru

    The military is all volunteer and if most of the volunteers don't want to associate with scum they shouldn't be forced to. But since we are in the age of Obama I can only believe the military will be destroyed by the Dems just to satisfy their gay base.

    March 18, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  24. Kevin in Ohio

    We don't need people like this serving our country...they are willfully disobeying orders. A straight person would get a dishonorable discharge... they will likely get an honorable one.

    March 18, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Eugene Frank MD

    The courage to protest for a cause in the face of endangering oneself, career and future, if not their own person, is the same courage that was exhibited by the militias that fought for the establishment of these United Sates. They were outlaws in the eyes of the British: breaking laws, organizing armed groups, sabotage of British installations, faced death at every moment because they believed in our cause: freedom, liberty, self-rule and democracy. That cause has yet to be achieved for blacks, women, hispanics, and certainly same-sex attracted individuals. This is the same courage faced by each and every US soldier: male, female, hispanic, black and gay every day on all the fronts of current wars. There are those individuals who would yet deny equality for all Americans, that our forefathers fought for: shame, shame, shame.

    March 18, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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