March 18th, 2010
05:05 PM ET

Gay soldier arrested in protest outside White House

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.

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Filed under: Gay and lesbian • Military • U.S.
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Maynard Walden

    As a retired navy person,Why in the world would our country send extremly needed personal. Frankly I find it plane stupid.I worked with gay personal for many years,and glad they were there to watch myback. knock off this crap,be glad you have an educated,well trained soilder who is fighting for the same thing the same thing you are the,U.S. Wake up america With all the things going on we need all the help we can getrember the Gays do not have to be there,hated by the enemy,And hated by there own country.Anybpody who harms a Gay inlisted person ,should be brought up on charges, and govev a disonerble discharge for ignorance.

    March 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. joseph cecil smith

    truly inspiring, i totally support these soldiers, very bold symbol, creative protest, even though it's illegal under army rules. i hope they get cleared, and reinstated.
    peace to all

    March 18, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. J. Thompson

    Truly disappointing and embarrassing to military members – gay or straight. The mark of a military professional is their adherence to orders and regulations regardless of their personal motivations or hardships. When a soldier presents their agenda as superior to the policy or agenda of their organization, the organization breaks down and the individual in issue is no longer trustworthy. Imagine what happens to the 'individual' confronted with almost certain death when ordered to storm an enemy machinegun nest – should he say no out of self interest?! If he says no, then who? If the argument for gay servicemembers is that they are capable of serving with distinction and honor, then clearly Lt Choi has damaged that position.
    Unfortunately, this 'individual' hasn't displayed the courage one might expect of a soldier poised grimly for the attack, stoically facing the uncertainty fate has in store. No, he decided his interests are superior to the discipline and good example required of an officer. What kind of example is that for America's young men and women, gay or straight?

    March 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ryan Drennan

    Lt. Dan Choi is everything a military leader should be: educated, principled, competent and courageous.

    It is time to end this ban and look reality in the face. The nation and our military will be the stronger for it.

    March 19, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. SPC Annonymous

    Kudos to Lt. Col Choi! I am in the US Army and I think that it is absurd that we fight to give people freedom that we, as service members cannot have. I understand that we volunteered and for that we make sacrifices such as deployments, overseas tours, ristrictions and rules but when a person has to sacrifice a basic component of themselves it has gone too far. That is like saying that we cannot have religion, skin pigment, or morals of our own. These things are a basic make-up that determine who someone is.

    People deserve to be proud of who they are, gay, strait, black, white, or other, there may have been better ways to go about showing that but sometimes when it feels like you have been screaming it at the top of your lungs and nobody hears you, you go to extremes to make people listen. That is what Lt. Col Choi did.

    I am strait and would be proud to serve with him.

    March 25, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. Charles

    I can certainly appreciate what these guys are trying to achieve, but handcuffing yourself to the fence? Really?
    Let's try to keep this more dignified than that.

    November 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |