Daniel Choi, a gay rights activist challenging the U.S. Army’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” spoke at the Institute of Politics last night about the “furor” surrounding his arrest two weeks ago for chaining himself to the gates of the White House.
Choi, a former first lieutenant who served in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, said he was dismissed from the army after revealing his sexual orientation on “The Rachel Maddow Show” in March 2009.
In his talk entitled “Truth and Consequences: One Man’s Quest To Openly Serve His Country,” Choi discussed his struggle to both appeal his dismissal from the army and to protest its gay policy.
Introduced in 1993 as a compromise measure by then-President Bill Clinton, DADT prohibits officials from directly probing a service member’s sexual orientation, but allows action to be taken against service members who openly declare their sexuality, according to the Department of Defense website.
“The disaster of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is what it does every single day in the heart of a soldier—it tells them that they should be ashamed,” Choi said. “One is forced not only into secrecy, but into shame. Deception is enforced; shame is enforced.”
Choi added that the policy not only affects individuals on a personal level, but also has implications for the army as a whole.
Nearly “13,500 soldiers have been dismissed as a result of the policy. But if you think about it, that is 13,500 units who have lost surgeons, translators, officers,” Choi said. “We are sending units overseas without the full armor and support owed to them.”
By not allowing citizens the right to serve openly in the U.S. military, Choi said that the government sends a message to the gay community that they should be ashamed and must hide their sexual orientation.
To address this problem, Choi added that he intends to work with members of the LGBT coalition to petition President Obama to repeal the policy.
“We are specifically pressuring the president to do everything he can to bring about change,” Choi said.
“We want him to make good on his promise—to finish what he so boldly and publicly started,” he added, referencing then-presidential candidate Obama’s campaign promise to repeal DADT.