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. Nashvillemykl

    The whole issue of gays in the military is a great big joke. Gays are everywhere in the military and always have been. There was a time when almost an entire squad of the Marine Corp Slient Drill Platoon was gay or bisexual and everyone involved knew it. Remember that next time you people pile in your cars and buses and head on down to Marine Barracks 8th & I or the Iwo to watch the Marines toss their weapons or execute all those snappy commands. You folks out there in apple pie land are living a fantasy.

    March 18, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. Al

    I guess nobody knew this Choi guy (gal?) was a homosexual before today, unless they saw his admission on Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC. But, as she is also a lesbian, and nobody watches MSNBC anyway, how would anyone know Choi's preference. I'm sure glad my service ended a long time ago, when America sent its best "men" to defend the country. What branch of service did Obama serve in?

    March 18, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  3. Celeste

    I think people really shouldn't give a crap if people are gay/lesbian/bisexual who cares? I'ts not our life anyways let them do as they choose just like us straight people. If they want to fight let them fight they are allowed to have pride in our country. I applaud his courage but his approach didnt have to get him arrested. We need to open our eyes and realize that they are humans, too. What if we were in their shoes? What if we were not allowed to get married or serve in the army? This entire against orientation thing makes me sick.

    March 18, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. GOPBslapper

    Does this ring a bell, it should. Our Founding Fathers wrote it in the Declaration of Independence.
    Those who discriminate against gays are Un-American. To wit:

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
    All men are created equal, get it Morons? Even our Founding Fathers knew racists and homophobes are a disease to America.

    March 18, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. mike wilson

    It is the duty of every soldier to disobey an illegal order, and the duty of every American to disregard unjust laws. There are too many instances of soldiers and civilians blindly obeying orders that violate universal human rights and international law.

    For those of you that prefer gays keep their mouths shut; it makes no difference – if they discovered they are discharged. Nothing could be more un-American, un-patriotic or unbelievable.

    March 18, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. Michael

    "Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Lt. Choi is a serviceman who deserves our respect. He is a citizen in this country and is proud to serve it. Instead of tearing him down, it is time for us to follow his lead. Let us call upon each other to open our hearts and minds.

    DADT is hate. It is a policy that declares one group of people more important and more valued than another. It is separation and needs to stop... now!

    March 18, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  7. NC

    Gay or our soldiers......

    March 18, 2010 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  8. Bob

    In solidarity with those arrested outside the White House, and in Speaker Pelosi's DC and CA offices I say: "I AM – SOMEBODY – AND I DESERVE – FULL EQUALITY – RIGHT HERE – RIGHT NOW – I DESERVE – FULL EQUALITY!"

    March 18, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  9. saka

    why would they protest in uniform

    March 18, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. Manhandler

    I think this policy should be expanded to include soldiers with red hair. As long as they don't say they have red hair the military can't ask if they have red hair.

    March 18, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  11. Lucy, Texas

    I am proud of every American who volunteers to defend his country. I believe they are honorable and truthful men and women who have chosen to serve their country. I believe the Army's motto is be all you can be. I don't believe that you can ask them to give their life for the country, and then discriminate against them. Don't ask and don't tell is discrimination.

    March 18, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  12. Joe

    All of the arguments against gays in the military are the same as those once made about blacks in the military. "It will ruin morale, it will destroy the cohesion of our fighting forces, men won't be wiling to serve, etc." President Harry Truman solved the integration problem with the stroke of a pen and essentially told the military "get over it." It's time for President Obama to do the same with gays in the military.

    March 18, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  13. matt

    why would someone comment that he gay service members need to keep their private business to straight military members dont ever talk about family (wives, ect).....EXACTLY!!!! Maybe that should be banned too.....If gay people can't disclose then neither should straight people. Then it would be fair!!! Stupid moron!

    March 18, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  14. Zach

    I don't think most people who would tell gays to "just keep their mouths shut and serve" have put much thought into what that means. I bet at one point or another you've all mentioned your significant others to coworkers. That's declaring your sexuality, and I bet most of you would be a little upset about your entire future depending on never doing such a mundane thing.

    This isn't about guys like Lt. Choi being able to do hold gay pride rallies in the barracks. It's about them being able to serve their country without having to worry about every little thing they do or say being used against them.

    March 18, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. valwayne

    It would be nice to see thousands of our gay soldiers protesting our Discriminator in Chief, Obama, outside the White House. Can you imagine risking your life to protect every living person in the U.S. and our Freedom only to lose your career and livelihood because you tell someone the truth, that you are gay. What kind of honor code is taught at West Point, or the Naval or Air Force academies, that tells people to hide and never tell the truth. Thousands more should line up outside of Pelosi and Reids office. Obama and the Democrats have lied to the gay community and betrayed their promises. Gay men and women should all be protesting their lies and betrayals. How many decades do we have to be betrayed? No gay man or woman should ever give so much as a dollar or a vote until the Democrats let us out of the back of the bus and keep their promises!!!!

    March 18, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  16. AJ

    Most Americans would be happy to see the gay community dead and why we should want to continue to fight for this country where there is govenrment sanctioned homophobia and violence against our community I do not know. As a gay veteran I can say that the US military couldnt survive without GLBT service members.

    March 18, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  17. Deeysew

    As a former Airmen in the united states airforce, I can say the military doesn't necessarily frown upon homosexuality. In fact even having females in service, although few see combat, is pretty progressive. What it does frown upon is 1. not praying to jesus. and 2. Not being married and having kids with said female members. This was a shock to learn during bmt that since the majority is heterosexual parents, as soon as you join, they'll try to get you to conform to their religious and sexual views, or call you gay if you don't. But it being the mil, the rules are just pieces of paper. There's plenty of gays and bis in there who get the job done, so who cares. This guy must have really wanted to stir the pot though. I can't see why, they're just going to crush him and move on.

    March 18, 2010 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    Conservatives' political strategery: we don't need the gay vote because we have the homophobes.

    March 18, 2010 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  19. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    More poofters in our faces with their peccadilloes. And today we learned from a retired General that one significant factor in a 1995 massacre at Srebrenica was the fact that some Dutch solders there were gay. The military isn't a liberal democracy and needs to be much more accommodating of inalterable prejudices and biases of the majority of soldiers which affect morale, good order and discipline. The net number of preeves who are excluded by DADT is rather low, and in my view does not warrant the level of political bending over backwards to let them in.

    March 18, 2010 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. Viet_Nam_Vet

    Point of information for "jay1975", – the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is neither uniform nor just.

    March 18, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  21. John S. Carolina

    I am very proud of these two gentlemen.

    March 18, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  22. Justin

    Choi found his fifteen minutes. Congratulations.

    March 18, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  23. A Veteran

    I dont think they want a special ribbon for being gay, they dont even want to go around talking about it nonstop, they just want to do their job and live their private lives without fear of being spotted by nosy coworkers and reported on like some McCarthey era pinko! If they find out a straight soldier is having sex, they give the old wink wink. If they find out you are gay, even if you are not currently involved with anyone, they show you the door.

    March 18, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  24. infantry7

    What makes a gay soldier so much more important than a straight soldier, that he has to be recognized for his preference? Don't ask Don't Tell is put in place so that private business can be kept private in the best interest of a positive work environment.

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

    Its too bad that the military wasted all that money training an individual like this, especially a weekend warrior in the national guard. It must be extremely liberating to feel as if you don't have to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the UCMJ. I guess when this poor example of a military officer swore to uphold the constitution and obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over him, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he just figured he was above all that. Don't disgrace the uniform by using as a vehicle for politics. Oh, and by the way, protesting in uniform is STRICTLY PROHIBITED by the UCMJ. but again Lt. Choi is above all that.

    March 18, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
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