Yesterday was a busy day here at NN11 in sunny, warm Minneapolis, MN. There are so many really interesting panels that choosing which to attend is tough. I’m also here in a different capacity than I was in Pittsburgh two years ago, I have two webs sites that I administer. I’ll talk about that later probably when I get back.
On of the outstanding panel I attended was with Jane Hamsher of FDL, John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, DADT, LGBT and Army veteran Lt. Dan Choi and Dream Act activist Felipe Matos. They discusses what progressives could do when the president is not into your issues and how to get the administration to take the lead. When the floor opened to questions, the first person to a approach the stage was a young an who said he was a member of Obama For America (OFA) who managed to cause an incident that has gotten quite a bit of attention from the internet and on-line news media:
Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged from the military for running afoul of its anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, provided a visual when an Organizing for America volunteer stood up and asked him to support Obama in 2012. The man said he did not support gay marriage — “civil unions?” he offered weakly — and Choi promptly ripped up an Organizing for America flyer he had been given and threw it back in the man’s face.
I also had the pleasure and honor of saluting Lt. Choi and giving him a hug. Here’s is the video of the full panel which was quite a lively conversation
President Obama is back from his Pan Pacific – Asian debt sales trip, and the Lame Duck session of Congress is now officially underway.
Lt. Dan Choi and 12 other Get Equal civil rights activists handcuff themselves to the White House fence on Monday, Nov 15, 2010, to protest the military’s discriminatory policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (photo of murky screenshot from video was highlighted. )
I was originally writing something up on the conservative response to Lt. Dan Choi’s arrest when I wrote this sentence: “If conservatives want us to stop equating their homophobia to the racism that the civil rights movement experienced, they should stop using the same talking points.” I decided to write the following instead of a typical conservatives-freak-out-at-liberal-activism post.
Let us play a game. I am going to give you a quote about the bigotry of the armed forces. I will redact all names, dates, and any words along the lines of “homosexual”, “gay”, “sexual orientation”, “black”, “negro”, “race.” You try to guess what kind of bigot these perfectly rational arguments came from, homophobic or racist! Sounds fun, right?
Yesterday, Lt Dan Choi and a fellow veteran had themselves handcuffed to the White House fence to peacefully protest the Obama administration’s empty words and lack of action on ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This disgraceful policy allows over 600 military servicemembers per year to be tossed out of the military merely for sexual orientation. They were arrested and held overnight in jail, incommunicado.
Protesters also staged sit ins at Speaker Pelosi’s offices in San Francisco and Washington DC.
A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi’s office said, this morning, that “they didn’t have the votes” to do anything this year.
Robin McGehee of Fresno, CA, of GetEqual, who was at the arraignment in Washington, DC, is reporting that Lt Dan Choi and Capt Jim Pietrangelo, have been arraigned before the judge this afternoon, and have pled Not Guilty. They have now been released from federal custody and will go to trial April 26. http://twitter.com/speechadvice
“We will not admit guilt in our fight for equality”
“We may have been caged up physically, but many are caged up in their heart.”
– Lt. Dan Choi March 19, 2010
Americablog also had witnesses there yesterday and disputes another version of events being put out by another LGTB group.
Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo should be released from jail today. They were arrested yesterday after handcuffing themselves to the fence in front of the White House to protest Obama’s inaction on repealing DADT. The President plays a key role in that legislation, but despite a vow to do it in the State of the Union, the White House isn’t moving. It was the first time I’ve seen civil disobedience up close. And, it was intense. To think it’s come to this with the Obama administration. But, it has. This week, Barney Frank made it abundantly clear that the White House really needed to speak out on its desire to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. That was Monday. No word from the White House, which says everything. There is no plan, despite the promises. It seems that everyone in DC knows that, but not everyone will admit it.
There is a plan, Joe. They’re going to ignore you until you make yourself heard, which requires many different ways. Just like with ending the mid east war expansions, getting everybody into a real health care system and not just a junk insurance plan, or forcing the banks to stop stealing people’s life savings, or making the government do something about carbon emissions besides more Nukes, or preserving a woman’s right to chose to bear children.
So don’t let somebody tell you it’s better to use your time to make phone calls on behalf of OFA instead of reading, writing, talking, blogging, protesting, photographing, communicating, and badgering incumbents and candidates.
We’ve (anybody who needs equality, and that is all of us, rich, poor, all colors, all genders, all faiths) got a plan, too.
updated to add link to my diary yesterday, and the americablog link
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.
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.
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
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.
Last week I posted a diary about LGBT legislation before Congress, suggesting that all was not doom and gloom in the fight for LGBT rights. Now there’s more good news coming down the pipeline: on Friday the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted on its website the words that activists have been waiting years to see:
Title: Medical Examination of Aliens: Removal of HIV Infection as a Communicable Disease of Public Health Significance
With this we move one significant step closer to getting rid of one of the worst and most discriminatory bits of immigration law currently on the books: the HIV travel ban.