Lt. Dan Choi, a nationally known LGBT activist and Iraq War veteran who the military is attempting to discharge because of its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, led a group of protesters to the White House today, where he and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo let themselves be handcuffed to the wrought iron fence in an act of peaceful civil disobedience. They were subsequently arrested and are now being held in jail pending court tomorrow.
The Advocate, 3/18/2010
United States Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser told The Advocate that both men were taken to Park Police’s Anacostia station, where they were charged with failure to obey a lawful order. Choi and Pietrangelo will be held overnight and are scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Friday.
“You’ve been told that the White House has a plan,” Choi told rally attendees. “But we learned this week that the president is still not fully committed. … Following this rally, I will be leading [the protest] to the White House to say ‘enough talk.’ … I am still standing, I am still fighting, I am still speaking out, and I am still gay.”
Lt Choi and Capt Pietrangelo, handcuffed to the fence at the White House on March 18, 2010, while the crowd chants “Equality….. NOW ! ”
Despite the Democrats holding the majority in the House and Senate since 2006, and the White House since January 2009, during campaigns which Democratic candidates called for the repeal of DADT, nothing has changed much in that soldiers who are outed in terms of their sexuality can still be discharged against their will for nothing but being attracted to the same gender irregardless of performance and duty. This in spite of the issue of inequality being used for fundraising purposes, people seeking justice have been told “not now, it’s too controversial while we’re doing something else first” repeatedly. While the President finally mentioned the topic in this year’s state of the Union address, he intends to put language about it into a fiscal appropriations bill for next year.
This is ridiculous.
In the fiscal years since the policy was first introduced in 1993, the military has discharged over 13,000 troops from the military under DADT. The number of discharges per year under DADT dropped sharply after the September 11 attacks and has remained relatively low since. Discharges exceeded 600 every year until 2009. Statistics on the number of persons discharged per year follow:
2007 — 627 discharged
2008 — 619 discharged
2009 — so far 428 discharged so far
Rick Sanchez of CNN does a good job covering this in this video. Lt. Choi and Capt. Pietrangelo chained themselves to the White House fence today, then were arrested, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience to protest the lack of action on the ENDA Non Discrimination Act, and for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military. Choi is an Iraq veteran.
The protest at the White House was followed by sit ins at House Speaker Pelosi’s offices in San Francisco and in Washington, DC later that afternoon by LGBTQ activists with “Get Equal.” http://www.getequal.org/getenda/ Per their website, 4 people have been arrested at Speaker Pelosi’s Washington DC office. The ones arrested in San Francisco have been cited and released. twitter for Get Equal http://twitter.com/getequal
Newsweek The Human Condition blog 3/18/2010
The group appears to be convinced that the administration and Congress are not moving forward with gay-rights legislation, despite Obama’s call in the State of the Union for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and assurances that ENDA is being explored. This week, however, The Advocate published an article in which Barney Frank claimed that the administration wanted to push the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” into next year.
According to GetEqual’s statement: “ENDA legislation has been stuck in the House Committee on Education and Labor since last year. Contrary to what has been told to many LGBTQ allies in Congress, The Hill reported in December that Pelosi assured Democrats she would not bring any controversial bills to the floor for a vote this year.”
But activists say that politics should take a back seat to human rights and basic safety. “A recent study on discrimination found that 97 percent of transgender people who responded had experienced some level of harassment and 26 percent had been fired simply for being transgender,” said David McElhatton, who is described in the statement as a transgender activist who participated in the San Francisco action today. “We thought we had an ally in Nancy Pelosi, but she has taken our equality for granted. We are not going to let up on her until she takes action to ensure that we are all protected in the workplace.”
Human rights are civil rights. We can’t be invading country after country on the rationalization of some sort of mission to “democracize” them with western values when we continue to discriminate here at home on the basis of religious and gender identity. These people who are willing to defend and even die for us, only wish to continue to serve their country honorably.
End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year.
Don’t let the fear be the enemy of the good.
h/t to Lady Libertine for the links