Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Senator Reid Gets Dan Choi's West Point Ring As A Pledge

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | July 25, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Dan Choi, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Harry Reid, Netroots Nation

Reid and Choi.jpg

During Senator Reid's speech at Netroots Nation on Saturday, the moderator handed Dan Choi's West Point ring to the Senator on behalf of former Lieutenant Choi, asking the Senator to get Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal passed.

Senator Reid said he wouldn't keep the ring, because he didn't earn it. He tried to give it back, but the moderator said he could give it back after he passed the bill. He was pointed to Lieutenant Choi, sitting in the front, who, according to reports from people sitting nearby, stood up, approached the security screens in front of the stage, and saluted.

Security approached, looking ready to prevent an "incident." He took a step forward and saluted again.

The Senator got up, and moved towards the front of the stage.

He extended his hand, as if to shake Lieutenant Choi's hand. Security stayed back.

Choi jumped up onto the high stage in a single bound, and said something very significant to Senator Reid, pointing his finger.

Unfortunately, I don't know what he said, because my internet froze as I was watching the streaming video from my room, after having been refused admission because I forgot my Netroots badge.

Meanwhile, back in the auditorium, Reid and Choi hugged, and the accounts I received said there were many eyes glistening with tears. Even as they gave me these accounts hours later, observers were unable to stop tears as they recalled the emotions of the moment. Senator Reid then reiterated his deep support for DADT repeal and ENDA.

While many of the LGBT participants here had expressed to me deep reservations about direct action in general and GetEqual in particular, there was universal agreement among the dozen or so people that I interviewed that this was Choi's (and GetEqual's) finest hour to date. Not one person dissented from that view, a startling achievement in our fractious community.

Lt. Choi deserves a vote of thanks from our community.

Thank you, Lieutenant Choi.

Hopefully, someone else can tell us what he said.

Here's a copy of the letter Dan Choi sent Harry Reid explaining the promise of his West Point Ring:

July 24, 2010
The Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader:

Dear Harry:

My West Point ring has always symbolized an irrevocable promise: my commitment to serving America and my duty to defend freedom and justice. Today, with my discharge from the army for telling the truth, the ring takes on a new meaning, serving as a symbol for the enduring pain of broken promises.

America was founded on the principles of inalienable rights, equality, and the promise of justice for all. But today, Americans remain segregated from that promise. Fired from our jobs, discriminated in the military, denied equal access to our own integrity and acknowledgement of our families, we cannot conclude that our country has manifested its own promise, over 230 years later.

You have also made personal promises to me that the senate would repeal military discrimination before the end of 2009. Indeed, you sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Gates, claiming that was the most you could do to save my career. You promised to lead on repeal of discrimination. I believed your promise because you are the most powerful senator in America. Truly, no one can do more. The false hope of your promise has been made real to me today with another letter: the letter terminating my military service.

But I present this ring to you, symbolizing my promise as a fellow citizen: my service continues.

I promise I will hold you accountable to your obligations to lead in the effort to end discrimination, both in the workplace and in the military. My promise is not merely written on a piece of paper or words alone, but in the hearts of every lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender American fired from their jobs because of broken promises from those who purport to be our friends. History will judge us and conclude that the greatest obstacles to justice were not the loud rants of bigots, but the quiet fears of those unwilling to stand firm in the fulfillment of their commitments. I refuse to allow my friends register themselves in history as obstacles to justice.

I commit to you my renewed pledge and continued service. To you and all those "friends" who manipulate, deceive and exploit our community, I will serve as a reminder of the consequences we all pay when allegiance to political careers takes higher priority than allegiance to America's promise.

Lt. Dan Choi
US Army, Discharged under DADT

And click the link for a copy the letter Reid sent to President Obama and Secretary Gates about DADT.

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So, Reid will hang on to Choi's ring until the Senate passes the repeal....but the policy will still be in place, right?

The "repeal" is merely a tool to pass the decision to the military so they can continue to enforce the ban (perhaps under the radar because there is no non-discrimination language proposed) while Congressional Democrats can claim to be heroic.

If Reid gives that ring back to Choi this fall, it will be meaningless.

The repeal is not a repeal.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | July 25, 2010 1:22 PM

Truly, this was one of my favorite parts of Netroots. I know you couldn't see it, dear Jillian, but Choi actually saluted Reid from behind the barricade, and then again from the bottom of the stage. Security seemed worried, but Reid's acceptance of the gesture allowed Choi access to the stage.

It was an incredibly effective motion: rather than approaching Reid with anger, he chose a respectable, and touching, track, one that I hope will help level the playing field and renew the dialogue between LGBT activists and Washington.

Dan Choi talks about their conversation in the video linked below. Reid told Choi that he was a good friend. Choi replied, "I am your good friend, and that's why I'm gonna hold you accountable." Reid asked, "Well, what do you want? ENDA or Don't Ask Don't Tell?" Choi replied, "I'm a civilian now. So of course I'm gonna want ENDA. But it isn't about me anymore." There's more, and it's here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsyg5FdWU3k

(I'm not Dan Choi btw.)

This was moving and I think Choi deserves credit for being persistent. But, there is a problem. This is being widely reported as "Reid Promises to Repeal DADT." He never did. Not in his letters to Gates or the President or during this exchange with Choi.

This is important because Choi and GetEQUAL continue to suggest they are "holding politicians accountable" with their stunts. Reid, Pelosi and others have said repeatedly they "support" the real of DADT and DOMA and the passage of ENDA. In those numerous statements there is no "promise."

Reid and Pelosi have a problem - there are not enough votes in the US Senate to pass anything LGBT-related. That is OUR fault, not theirs. We need to change enough minds to get enough votes in the Senate.

GetEQUAL's attacks on our friends based on the misrepresentations that they have "promised" something, is counterproductive. Even the attacks on Obama are misplaced. He didn't promise to repeal DADT, he "promised to work with Congress to repeal DADT." That is an important distinction.

We can make progress and gain public support when we are HONEST - claiming all these "promises," especially considering politicians know better than to actually promise anything, hurts us. The idea that we can hold somebody accountable for something they didn't even say or promise is delusional. It is why these faux attempts to hold someone accountable by embarrassing them are hurting our movement. Pissing on our friends in an effort to "hold them accountable" for something they didn't say is both childish and stupid.

In politics you get what you vote for - effort. Everybody knows "political promises" are not very reliable - it's even worse when we simply make them up. Just because politicians are dishonest it doesn't mean we need to be.

Shaking my head. 70% of Americans support the repeal of DADT. We have the votes in the House and the Senate to do it as it is in the Defense budget.

Your dishonesty is shameful.

Please shake your head some more. Until you get this:

We don't have 60 votes in the Senate and we don't know if the silly non-compromise, not-repeal DADT Repeal will be kept in the Defense Authorization Bill. We've never had 60 votes for an LGBT-related Bill. Never.

Your "70% of Americans support DADT" estimate or Poll doesn't change votes in the Senate - they vote based on what their constituents think. That means in places like Alabama and Oklahoma your national polling estimates are useless. Polling in those two States and 23 others show the majority of their residents to be Anti-LGBT.

Who cares if you want to give GetEqual credit for anything?

Which Senators will you target in your plan to change hearts and minds?

Name them.

You don't target the Senators, you target their constituents. US Senators vote based on the beliefs of their constituents.

Lying to try to prove your idea is the only way while sabotaging any discussion of other ideas is shameful.

Hemen H. MEhta | December 22, 2010 1:57 PM

He kept his promise and today we all saw the bill signed into law.