Well, we won on the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal battle, and last week was the one-year anniversary. Hurrah! Of course, it was touch and go, and despite the efforts of many valiant soldiers, lawyers and servicemember organizations, the President wasn't behind it until after the GetEqual protests at the White House gates, with the now-iconic photograph of servicemembers chained to the White House fence.
Dan Choi was arrested at the White House fence at one of the protests. They said he was blocking the sidewalk, even though he was standing on the fence ledge, not the sidewalk. And then, as we know, President Obama came to the rescue and got behind DADT repeal in a big way, as did many others within and without the Administration, and it happened. But what happened to Dan Choi?
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Of course, Lt. Choi isn't dead, thank goodness, and Walt Whitman's famous poem about the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination isn't comparable. But where are the flags being flung for Lt. Choi, and what bouquets and swaying masses are there for his heroic and selfless efforts?
He seems to have been abandoned by our community and our media after the battle was won.
I haven't seen anything in the LGBT media about his continuing fight. Federal prosecutors are demanding the maximum six months in jail and the government took away all his benefits and are even asking for thousands of dollars from Lt. Choi, bill collectors hounding him. These are the same prosecutors who insisted on disrespecting Lt. Choi, calling him "Mister Choi" in open court, refusing to use his military rank, until the Judge ordered them to do so. In fact, the Judge specifically found that there was sufficient evidence to permit use of a "vindictive prosecution" defense in this case.
Where is the love, people? Do you know what is happening to Lt. Choi?
Bad stuff. Death by litigation, as they say. As a litigator, I know the enormous emotional toll it takes on my clients, even though they're in the right. I know the toll it takes on me, and I'm not the one on trial. We must support Lt. Choi, now that the battle is won, now that the flags are flying and the bugles are trilling for the one-year anniversary of DADT repeal.
And by the way, you should know our job isn't done yet. Trans military servicemembers still serve in painful silence, and not one national organization, save the National LGBT Bar Association, is moving on that front. We seem to have short memories and short arms. Let's get behind Lt. Choi!
Here is Lt. Choi's message about his battle against vindictive federal prosecutors. How much will prosecutions such as this chill the right to speak out? Knowing of the possibility of such consequences, how many of you would want to protest and risk this type of costly legal battle?
Thank you for all your love and encouragement these past years, particularly now.
More than 700 days after protesting DADT, I'm still on trial. The highly-skilled DoJ lawyers (federal prosecutors) demand the maximum 6 month federal prison sentence to punish my free speech. I'm still prohibited from re-enlisting, and I'm paying for this trial defense 100% out of my own pocket. Bill collectors call three times a day regarding my $3000 "DADT Discharge Debt." They slashed my veterans disability check, and my credit stinks.
Still, I'm not the victim here. When we're faced with injustice, victimization solves nothing. Only confrontation vindicates our struggle. So, I'm trying my best to fight back. I filed a motion to dismiss for Prosecutorial Misconduct:
#1. They withheld White House emails initiating a federal trial, before our protest.
#2. They are playing dirty games with the subpoenas.
#3. They refuse to address me properly (Lt. Choi) even after the judged ordered them.
I represent myself in the DADT Federal Trial. I have asked several gay legal groups to take on my case, but they refused. So, I dragged my battle-buddy Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II out of retirement to represent me in the Tarsands trial (my other trial, for protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, where only 3 out of 1,250 protestors were brought up on charges). Here's the schedule:
WED Sep. 26, 11am Traffic* Court: Motions Hearing (Keystone XL Tarsands Protest)
WED Oct. 17, 2pm Federal Court: Motions Hearing (DADT Prosecutorial Misconduct)
MON Nov. 5-7, 9am Traffic Court: Tarsands TRIAL begins
TBD Federal Court: DADT TRIAL resumes
*Before a Magistrate Judge in D.C. Superior, basically Traffic Court. Why is one trial traffic but the other federal? Good question. No media attended the last hearing, but if you are still interested, please help by forwarding this email to your local paper or favorite blogs. All trials and hearings are open to the public.
Thank you for all your support. Love is still worth fighting for.
Lt. Dan Choi
P.S. My website ltdanchoi.com is down, and I'm still investigating why. In the meantime, I'll keep you updated on my appearances via Facebook and Twitter. On Saturday 3pm, I join MSNBC in commemorating the 1-Year Anniversary of DADT Repeal, and I've also written an op-ed in the Advocate.com titled "Why I Must Keep Fighting."
Let's not forget our hero, Lt. Dan. Choi.
UPDATE: If you are a supporter of Lt. Choi, you can now get trial updates and contribute to his defense fund here: http://www.ltdanchoi.org/