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.
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. KnightsOut estimates there are 65,000 gays in the military.