Did Dan Choi’s Invitation To The DADT Repeal Party Get Lost In The Mail?

On Tuesday, we joined former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid to celebrate one year since the repeal of DADT.

We beamed with joy as we peered across a room crowded with openly gay and lesbian service members and their loved ones—but we couldn’t help but wonder where Dan Choi was. A vocal critic and activist, Choi was the face of DADT for many—keeping the ban in the papers and rallying the troops (so to speak).

Not only was Choi not at the event, produced by the Service Members Legal Defense Network, his face didn’t appear on the video montage decorating the walls of the Intrepid. He wasn’t even one of the brave enlistees thanked by Adm. Mullen, host Barbara Walters and others.

At another time Choi might’ve made it his business to show up, invited or not. But it turns out he’s knee-deep in legal trouble stemming from his arrest in 2010, when he and others chained himself to the White House fence.

Currently prosecutors from the Department of Justice are seeking the maximum six-month sentence, and Choi has had to provide for his defense out of his own pocket. “Bill collectors call three times a day regarding my $3000 “DADT Discharge Debt,” he reveals in an e-mail. “They slashed my veterans disability check and my credit stinks.”

He’s defending himself in the case—”I have asked several gay legal groups to take on my case, but they refused”—and has filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him based on prosecutorial misconduct. The motion, which will be heard on October 17, claims that White House emails ordering a federal trial before the protest even began were kept secret. (Interestingly enough, Choi’s also up on charges for protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, but is only required to appear before a Magistrate or, as he calls it, “basically Traffic Court.”)

As Choi made clear in an op-ed for the Advocate, he’s not about to stop fighting:

Our work, however, is not done in the U.S. Armed Forces. Sexual assault without punitive action is still rampant in the military, and we haven’t yet explored how best to adequately protect LGB soldiers from harassment. Our transgender brothers and sisters are still unable to add their names to those who may openly serve. Great Americans like Autumn Sandeen, a trans woman who was arrested with me at the White House protesting DADT, are unable to consider themselves “full” citizens.

In a matter of months, Dan Choi went from the beloved poster boy for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to a controversial activist many in Big Gay would like to pretend doesn’t exist. You might not always agree with his tactics or personality, but the war against bigotry is fought on many fronts, from within the system and without.

Let’s not forget that—or Dan—as we blow out the candles on one year of an open and inclusive military.

Dan Choi will appear on MSNBC to discuss the repeal of DADT on Saturday, September 22, at 3pm.



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  • Mjl-428

    WTF over?

    I’m glad that DADT is repealed and all, and I know everyone else is but we all still know there’s work to be done. there’s always gonna be work to be done.

    but why is Dan Choi getting overlooked?

  • RomanHans

    Hey, thanks for this! I’ve never understood why people criticize activists who sometimes care too much more than they criticize people who do nothing. Dan Choi is a personal hero and pivotal figure in gay history.

  • Mjl-428

    shunning one of our own, who was one of the more prominent voices against DADT, when they need our support is like the people turning their backs on the veterans who returned home from Vietnam when they needed help. is still has me saying, “Whiskey Tango flying Foxtrot over”

  • FStratford

    How can we donate to his legal fund? I’ll stop my donations to Big Gay and donate to him instead.

  • Curtis

    Big Gay just doesn’t get the concept of the intersectionality of oppression. It’s small-minded and immature to protest and demand our own equality, but skip off into the sunset all dandy-like when we get what we want. The people who stand with us for equality, we must stand with them in their fights against oppression. That means not being neutral in the war on women- yes, I’m talking to you, every gay man at the mall today.

    Dan gets that. And that’s why he’s awesome.

  • RLS

    I’m a gay veteran who was involved in the repeal effort and I was at the event Tuesday night. The way SLDN and others completely ignored the presence of people like Dan Choi and the efforts of GetEqual in achieving repeal was absolutely shameful. Shameful. There wasn’t a hint of the White House protests on the screen during the video montage, and it’s almost like they’re trying to erase an entire element of the success from history. We shouldn’t let them.

  • jeff4justice


    Critique Obama and Gay Inc and you’re thrown under a buss by the 2party system charade.

    Gay Inc could easily pay his defense but they’re too busy asking for donations for their 6-gigure salary leaders.

    I do not count on the 2party system and I do not count on Gay Inc.

  • Michael Bedwell

    No surprise, both the head of SLDN and one of its board members publicly flamed Dan after his and discharged gay vet Jim Pietrangelo’s first arrest at the White House.

    And I have a question for those who attended the celebration on the Intrepid. How many of the long list of gay service members who were fighting the ban before either SLDN or even DADT existed were shown on those screens? E.g.: Leonard Matlovich? Perry Watkins? Miriam Ben-Shalom? Tracey Thorne-Begland? Thanks.

    [Full Disclosure: Dan and I are friends, and I was one of those arrested with him at the White House that November. For a variety of reasons, the rest of us accepted the plea bargain even though we ALL hated the fact that the federal government was unquestionably “vindictively prosecuting” us….and needlessly sent armed federal marshals to our homes to try to intimidate us….rather than applying the city ordinance used in 99.9999999999999999999999999% of all such protests in Washington.]

  • frscottwest

    I think we have to look back at the history of our movement. for much of the gay rights movement it was a person by person thing. When we marched without permits, when we fought police raids, when we proudly stated that we were gay in spite of what we new would happen. I watched Dan come out on Rachel Maddow, and he did that pretty much alone.

    Now that Big Gay has found it easy to be gay, the have grabbed the reins away from us. We need to take the reins back and return our cause to a grass roots organization. They are now the equivalent of the Roman Catholic Church, there was a time when being a catholic meant being PART of a community.
    Now Big Gay has taken over and we will be dictated to by Big Gay. It won’t work, they are too sensitive to polls and politics.

  • Cam

    HRC is trying to rewrite history.

    They told gays to shut up and not bother our “Friends” in Congress about anything gay. Dan Choi ignored them, and they floated nasty rumors about him, attacked him, and were on all the blogs trying to hurt his reputation.

    Now that DADT is a done deal, because Get Equal Pressured Pelosi to bring it up, and Dan Choi did a media blitz and HRC reluctantly came to the party after they started getting attacked by the gay blogs….They are trying to pretend that THEY did all the work and erase people like Choi.

    HRC should be funding his defense, but of course parties cost so darn much money.

  • balehead

    He’s more self promoting media whore than activist….you need to be more constructive in your efforts and invite mediation when it comes to equality…and Dan doesn’t do that….

  • Alton

    @balehead: You’re right that Dan doesn’t do that…because doing that does not get you equality.

    Anyone who thinks that the repeal of DADT would have happened as soon as it did without Dan Choi is an ignorant moron. It was DAN who kept the issue in the public eye, DAN who kept the pressure on Congress and Obama, DAN who was the face of all the wrongfully discharged service men and women to all of America. While the HRC were going to parties and bending over for Obama and his delaying tactics, Dan was forcing the issue, demanding that it be dealt with NOW, not when it was politically convenient for the President. While the Democrats were promising to help us down the road, as long as we got out of the way for now, Dan refused to budge.

    We have heard empty promises for decades. We have donated millions of dollars that went to parties and other social events for the leaderships of the gay rights organizations who claimed to be fighting for us. It takes a Dan Choi to make change, not a pack of Aunt Toms who care more about brunching with the Washington elite than they do about equality. Even those self-loathing Log Cabin dicks did far more to promote our causes than “Big Gay” has ever done.

    I stopped donating to the HRC years ago. Sad to find out that, because of their treatment of heroes like Dan Choi, the SLDN is not worthy of my donation either.

    The smearing and ostracizing of Dan Choi is the most shameful thing I have ever seen from our community.

  • Brian

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama banned him from being invited. You see, Dan Choi wasn’t on Obama’s side of the plantation. To get invited to one of Obama’s parties, you need to be on his side of the plantation.

    It’s a travesty that a hard campaigner like Choi gets shafted while other do-nothings get their invites. Shame on you, Obama.

  • Atomicrob

    As a 60 year old gay man, I’ve seen what it takes to move society to look at our issues. Since Stonewall, it has been groups like Act Up, Get Equal and brave individuals like Dan Choi who have made the difference. Sometimes, we have to scream to be heard above the din of the collective voice of intolerance. Bravo for Dan and the 1000s of other Dans who each day, post a comment on a website or stand up to a bully and say, “No, you can’t do this to me, not this time.”

  • BayAreaHomo

    Remember, the big gay organizations aren’t about advancing gay rights — in fact, victory is BAD for them because it means there’s no purpose for them anymore.

    Think about it. If we got marriage equality nationwide, tomorrow, the last real bastion of government discrimination against LGBT Americans would be gone. Donations would plummet, and political careers made selling gay votes to top politicians and political parties would crumble into dust and blow away.

    Dan and people like him have been “too critical” of lazy people in power who were nominally “on our side.” That’s bad for Gay, Inc., which exists primarily to ensure a steady stream of revenue and career opportunities for its membership, using LGBT issues as a perennial carrot on a hamster wheel.

    No effective LGBT activist would EVER get invited to a Gay, Inc. celebration, because it would embarrass their masters (and also point out that Gay, Inc. had very little to do with what’s being celebrated).

  • oylm

    As an avid media consumer I have watched Lt. Dan Choi eviscerate Obama over and over and over to the point that I am completely sick of him. Never mind that he attacked an Obama supporter. Choi’s rants, along with Keith Olberman’s rants, are why I quit watching MSNBC THANKFULLY. After all those attacks by Choi on Obama, Obama turned out to be the most pro-gay president in US History. Not BECAUSE of Choi, but BECAUSE that was ALWAYS Obama’s agenda.
    I’m sorry that Choi is having these issues and I don’t see why he should be so punished for simply chaining himself to whatever. I do have some sympathy for him as a fellow human.
    But as far as being a hero in the LGBT rights, you can’t say Choi has done more than Obama for us. Not if you are trying to tell the truth.

  • Alton

    I love how during the first two years of Obama’s administration, when he was staying silent on the court rulings in California and Iowa, and having his DOJ vigorously defend DOMA in court, and inviting rabidly anti-gay preachers to pray at his inauguration, and pressuring Congressmen not to cut funding for DADT, all we heard from the Obamabots was, “He can’t do anything by himself. He needs Congress to act, or the Supreme Court to step in.” Now that Obama says he’s pro-gay marriage (but only if the states say it’s okay!), and now that Congress and the courts have done away with DADT, and now that several states have taken it upon themselves to acknowledge the rights of gay people, with only tepid endorsement from the federal government, suddenly, Obama is the best thing to happen to gay people since Stonewall.

    Obama has been forced into every concession he’s ever made to gays; forced by the courts, forced by the public, forced by his Vice-President, and forced by people like Dan Choi, who did what Obama told anyone who wanted change to do: make a big noise. Obama didn’t “give” us the end of DADT; indeed, he did everything in his power to delay its repeal. Advances for gays under Obama’s watch are not Obama’s victories: they are OUR victories: the victories of gay people who have had enough of persecution and inequality and refused to be silent when Obama and other Democratic leaders were frantically ordering us to quiet down so they could placate Republican bigots. It takes more than acknowledging that a majority of Americans are pro-gay to be labeled pro-gay yourself. It takes more than saying you’re pro gay-marriage but that gay marriage should be decided by the states to be pro-equality. And it takes more than merely being President at this point in history – a point where after the tireless work of DECADES from gay activist like Dan Choi, a turning point in the battle for equality can be clearly felt – to be labeled the Abraham Lincoln of gay rights.

    If Obama had fought as hard to end inequality for gays as Lincoln fought to end slavery, DADT and DOMA would have been repealed in his first term in office, and marriage equality would be a reality in all 50 states right now. It was hardly his “agenda”. Gay issues have ALWAYS been something Obama confronts reluctantly, only when he is assured of an easy victory, and only when someone else paves the way. Dan Choi has done far, far more for GLBT rights than Obama ever has, or ever will.

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