On Thursday, March 28th, Lt. Dan Choi, who courageously “came out” as gay in 2009 while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was still in effect, faced a judge and up to six months in federal prison for doing one basic thing: expressing his 1st Amendment right to protest.
Facing the charges of “failure to obey a lawful order” by the US Park Police for peacefully protesting against DADT in front of the White House in November of 2010. Lt. Choi and 12 others were arrested, and in May of 2011, all twelve pled guilty pleaded guilty. Lt. Dan was the only defendant to plead not guilty.
In today’s United States v. Daniel Choi trial, Lt. Choi was found guilty, fined $100 and could face jail time if the fine is not paid.
During the trial, Lt. Choi broke down and was carried out of the DC courtroom.
After serving in the Iraq war, Lt. Choi famously came out on The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009 during a time when being openly gay in the military was forbidden. Soon after, despite a Courage Campaign petition that collected hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of Lt. Choi, he was dishonorably discharged and stripped from his dreams of a military career. In an open letter against DADT to President Obama, Lt. Choi called the policy “a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers.”
According to Lt. Choi’s team, the trial has already made legal history in the arena of criminal procedure and the Writ of Mandamus, on the 3rd day of his 2011 trial, the Judge found a prima facie case of vindictive prosecution against the protestors and LGBT soldiers, the case was moved up to Federal Court through a Writ of Mandamus to prevent a lower court from deciding in Lt. Choi’s favor.
Lt. Choi was joined in court by friends, including London-based international human rights expert Peter Tatchell, who attended as a human rights observer. Prior to the trial Tatchell said, “This looks like a petty, vindictive prosecution. Dan Choi was arrested for protesting peacefully against a homophobic military policy that is now repealed. He helped draw public attention to a grave injustice and contributed to it being ended. Dan is a human rights hero. It makes no sense to continue with his trial. This prosecution is morally wrong and a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Lt. Choi served as an infantry officer, is an Iraq war veteran and a West Point graduate with a degree in Arabic. While President Obama has repealed DADT, the personal sacrifice of Lt. Choi in defending rights of countless of American service men and women continues to be a long and painful journey, one that should have come to an end a long time ago.