Dan Choi protesting DADT in November (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Lt. Dan Choi’s trial was delayed for 10 days today after U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola ruled there was significant enough evidence for Choi’s lawyers to argue the government singled him out for “vindictive prosecution.” The delay allows the government time to appeal to a higher court to overturn the judge’s allowance for such a defense to be pursued. Facciola was unfazed by the prosecution’s maneuver:
FACCIOLA: I have made every effort to be as clear as humanly possible. In March and April, he was treated in a similar way — but in November he was treated in an entirely different way. [...] It is impermissible for the U.S. Government to prosecute differently on the basis of the content of First Amendment speech.
Choi and 12 others protested Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by handcuffing themselves to the White House fence in November, but only Choi pleaded not guilty and fought his charge. According to internal emails, Randy Myers, assistant solicitor general at the Department of Interior, advised U.S. Park Police the morning of the protest to pursue federal charges of failing to obey a lawful order. Choi refused to accept any offer to dismiss the charges unless Myers (or a higher official) apologized.
Tempers Flared In Courtroom As Lt. Dan Choi Took The Stand |
Lt. Dan Choi testified in his own defense yesterday for over three hours, arguing that his arrest for protesting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the White House fence was a form of censorship. Today, his attorney Robert Feldman will question Randy Myers, assistant solicitor general at the Department of Interior, why he advised U.S. Park Police to pursue federal charges against Choi. The prosecution apparently made Choi an offer Friday to delay the trial four months and dismiss it if Choi avoids arrest in that time. Choi laughed and said no — at least not without an apology from Myers or a higher official.
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s 8:45 AM round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but let us know what you’re checking out too.
- Today is perhaps the big day for marriage equality in New York state! At last count, the Senate only needs one more vote to make equality a reality. Proponents rallied yesterday to pressure the Senate to bring the bill to a vote. The New York Daily News also reported that marriage equality would bring $184 million in revenue to the state.
- We are safely back in DC after an exciting week in Minneapolis at the Netroots Nation conference. Carlos Quiroz has some video highlights of some of the LGBT sessions, and make sure you see our exclusive coverage of Lt. Dan Choi ripping up an Obama 2012 flier after being approached by a conference attendee who said he couldn’t support marriage equality.
- Another important moment from the weekend was when White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer denied that Barack Obama had written the letter supporting marriage equality that he signed in 1996. In yesterday’s New York Times feature on Obama’s “evolving” position on marriage, the White House said Pfeiffer didn’t know what he was talking about, but also suggested that Obama was referring to civil unions at the time. Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has come to Obama’s defense, calling him ”the best president this country has ever had on LGBT issues.”
- GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) continues to face scrutiny about whether their President, Jarrett Barrios, has actually resigned and under what circumstances. Barrios was pressured to step down for mishandling the organization’s relationship with contributor AT&T.
- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was the latest target of a “glitter bomb” after speaking at RightOnline (Photo Credit: Jim Gehrz). Activist Rachel E.B. Lang shouted at Bachmann, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
Lt. Dan Choi ripped up an Obama For America (OFA) flyer this afternoon during a panel at Netroots Nation when he was confronted by an Obama volunteer who attempted to explain away the President’s opposition to same-sex marriage:
NICK TSCHIDA (Obama volunteer): I can’t say I’m for marriage equality, but as a bisexual man, I would take a bullet for both of you.
CHOI: You say you’re not for marriage equality?
TSCHIDA: I can’t, no as a….
CHOI: Did you not understand? Here! I believe that I’m an equal citizen.
TSCHIDA: I understand that, but Obama hasn’t gone officially on record for it…
CHOI: Then, don’t tell me that I’m a bad person, go tell him that he should believe in my full equality and then report back.
TSCHIDA: Civil unions?
“I think if Obama doesn’t endorse my full marriage equality and my personhood in this country, then I have no business supporting him and I don’t think a lot of the people who are first time votes will either,” Choi said at a panel called ‘What To Do When The President Is Just Not That Into You.’
Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson got this response from Choi, “Sometimes love comes in harsh forms. I love my detractors enough to let them know when they are misguided and I only regret that we are both suffering under a second-class citizenship imposed by politicians who smile pleasantly while denying our fight for justice. The harshest treatment would be our acquiescence to the view that we do not deserve equality.”
Last night, Lt. Dan Choi debated Bishop Harry Jackson, a member of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and an “all-purpose activist and pundit for right-wing causes”, about ending the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on DC’s WTTG Fox 5. Jackson regurgitated the familiar arguments about repeal undermining unit cohesion, military readiness and the religious freedom of military chaplains. Choi debated on the issue on Jackson’s turf. He recalled the lessons from Civil Rights movement and likened the prohibition of open gay service to racism in the military:
CHOI: I think when you fire people simply for their integrity, for their act of telling the truth about who they are, there is nobody who can say that any team, any organization is strengthened. When I put on this uniform, when I wore these clothes in combat in Iraq…I didn’t swear just to serve a certain kind of people. I didn’t swear to protect only a certain kind of religious liberties. I swore to protect everybody and for anyone on to get up on the TV and say that we cannot risk the truth or integrity, I think makes a mockery not only of what our country was founded on, but the Civil Rights movement and what scripture tells us. I was raised in a religious tradition as well and I…[...]
You know, something that we learned in Iraq is that when a military is subordinated to the interests of a religious minority or a religious group of any sort, you have the same kind of social problems that the Middle East has that the countries that we are trying to liberate and to improve have and I don’t think that America is built on those same foundations….I’ve faced racism in this country and homophobia and Harry Jackson I think it feels exactly the same.
“When you ask me why don’t I wait,” Choi continued, “I learned the same lessons in school from all of the Civil Rights leaders who said that our American promise is not just for some people, not just for straight people, but for all people and anybody who thinks otherwise I think needs to look at the history books again.” “Discrimination does not need to be studied. It is wrong, period,” he concluded.
This afternoon, Lt. Dan Choi appeared on MSNBC with Contessa Brewer to discuss yesterday’s court ruling striking down the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on the grounds that it violates the due process cluse of the Fifth Amendment and abridges servicemembers’ First Amendment rights:
BREWER: [Judge Phillips] says it bars people from enjoying intimate conduct and bars them from speaking about their loved ones while serving in uniform. It bans them from including information in a personal communication that could reveal their homosexuality. If you’re deployed, you’re away from your support system. That’s a severe impediment to dealing effectively, operating effectively in our nation’s armed forces. But she says she’s not going to issue a final ruling for two weeks. What should happen right now from our nation’s leaders not just this judge?
CHOI: You’re absolutely right, for our soldiers not only in combat but back home that have to deal with so many issues of posttraumatic stress, depression, suicide, which is skyrocketing. I don’t see how they could stand by. But if the President and his Justice Department do not appeal, lift a finter, waste any energy, waste any statement or waste any money defending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, then what we might see is an absolute victory not only for gay veterans but for our whole military. We don’t have to fire people for being honest. We can bolster and reiterate not only our Bill of Rights and Constitution but that American value of love.
Indeed, while the Justice Department is still reviewing the decision and considering whether or not to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit, at least two Democratic Senators are pressuring the Senate to pass the Defense Authorization Bill, which includes an amendment that begins the process of repeal. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted this last night that she hopes “DOJ does not appeal” and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) called on Congress to “repeal it to improve natl security.”
Meanwhile, New York Magazine observes that the “ruling presents both a problem and an opportunity for Obama.” “With Democrats heading into what might just be a lame-duck session in the House (leading up to November elections, during which they very well may lose the majority), this might provide a last-minute chance to finally enact change on a policy many of them have vowed to end.” “If the Justice Department simply doesn’t appeal the case after this ruling, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ might just go away. If Obama waits for Congress to address the issue, a Republican-led house might reject an overturn.”
Once Phillips enters her judgment, “she can either permit it to take effect immediately, stay it while the decision is on appeal, or temporarily stay it to give the Ninth Circuit an opportunity to rule on whether her decision should be stayed during the appeal.” “Because this is a facial challenge, not just an as-applied challenge, if the decision is upheld on appeal, it will apply to the whole country and will be the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Lt. Dan Choi — the DADT advocate who was discharged from the military after he came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show — appeared on CNN’s The Situation Room yesterday to discuss his recent call back to training with the National Guard. “Essentially, my commander says, we’re going to war and we need all of the capable soldiers that we could get to train with us,” Choi explained.
Choi said he knew other gay soldiers who were in the process of being discharged but “had been told by their commanders” to come back for the time being. “I know of some of them that are out there. And there’s a lot of people that are in their units that I — I think they realize, look, we’re in a time of war, we’ve got to have everybody that we can.” Asked if anyone was uncomfortable about his return, Choi responded firmly:
BLITZER: Was anyone hostile or seemingly uncomfortable?
CHOI: Absolutely not. And here’s the thing, when you assume that people would do that, when you assume that people would be uncomfortable and quit, you are insulting soldiers in the most treacherous way. I can’t believe there are people that are saying a soldier would quit. You want to insult a soldier in the worst way, tell him he’s going to quit. Call him a quitter.
Choi emphasized that “there are people that are openly gay in their units right now” but stressed that they are not exceptions to the policy. “I could get fired right after I walk off the set here,” he said.
“I want to send a message to all the senators and the Congress that I’m watching them. And my promise remains — I will hold everyone accountable until we can, as Admiral Mullen said, have an organization and an institution that lives by those values of integrity.”
The Bilerico Project is reporting that Lt. Dan Choi — a DADT advocate who was discharged from the military after he came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show — has been called to “attend training” with his National Guard unit. “Apparently, Lt. Choi’s commander has always been in full support of him, and even after Lt. Choi came out on The Rachel Maddow Show, his commander did not press for his discharge,” Jeff Sheng, a BP contributor who spoke to Choi, explains. “The military did eventually serve Lt. Choi a discharge notification – essentially firing him from his job, but he was allowed to fight this at trial, and as it currently stands, the discharge has not been finalized“:
I was heartened though to hear Lt. Choi’s response, when I asked him what he thinks his new voice might be as the repeal of DADT takes shape. He spoke about perhaps helping the military implement a future non-discrimination policy, and advising in issues involving sensitivity trainings on LGBT issues. But the comment that struck me the most was when he said, “Actions speak louder than words.” It made sense all of a sudden, that the sheer act of him rejoining his unit and serving with everyone else, could be his most powerful voice in the debate so far. That seeing an openly gay service member train and fight with his unit, is something that truly does speak louder than words.
Alex Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United, clarifies that Choi has not been re-called or activated for active duty, as some have reported. Rather, “Choi is still in the New York Army National Guard, so he is completing a regularly scheduled drill weekend, which he has continued to do all along.” “This is still significant because he is continuing his regularly scheduled drills with his unit with the full support of his command, peers, and subordinates,” Nicholson wrote in an email. Indeed, Choi’s participation in the drill reaffirms what Choi himself has suspected — soldiers “care about what a person can do for the team. We’re in a time of war. We have bigger things to worry about than people being gay.”
Choi “served as an infantry officer, translator and language instructor in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.” Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the army “has discharged 59 gay Arabic linguists and nine gay Farsi linguists in the last five years, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network.”