On Memorial Day Weekend, I blogged about Lt. Dan Choi, an openly gay member of the U.S. Army who voluntarily placed himself in violation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by declaring his sexuality on Rachel Maddow. In protest of DADT, Choi was arrested twice this year while participating in a peaceable, non-violent demonstration in front of the White House.
In a possible sign that the federal government is trying to distance themselves from DADT, civil disobedience charges against Lt. Choi and a fellow protesters were dropped today. Even the prosecutor in the case against Lt. Choi was caught unawares by the decision not to prosecute Choi and fellow serviceman, Capt. James Pietrangelo II. From the press release issued by GetEQUAL.org:
WASHINGTON – Although the prosecution was ready to move forward and the arresting officers were present in courtroom 120 of DC Superior Court this morning, the government decided at the last minute today to drop the charges against Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. Apparently, Prosecutor Christine Chang was unaware of the government’s decision as she stated, “I was ready,” and wasn’t able to explain the last-minute decision not to prosecute.
“Today, truth was the victor against a demeaning, discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Lt. Dan Choi. “We won’t stop pressing for repeal and pressuring those standing in the way until the day comes when not one more gay or lesbian servicemember is fired. And, as of today, the President refuses to tell us when that day will actually come.”
“It is clear that the government was embarrassed and we were prepared to make them defend this antiquated and homophobic law. The government is afraid of having to defend this issue,” said Cpt. James Pietrangelo II. “The subpoena was an embarrassment for them, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an embarrassment for them and, after three months of discovery and preparation, the government dropped the case because they know it’s an embarrassment.”
I think it’s clear that the White House requested that the charges be dropped, because they are in the process of repealing DADT. They don’t want to deal with the political backlash of appearing to be in support of DADT by prosecuting this case, particularly while Congress votes to phase out this discriminatory policy. Regardless of how one feels about the military’s efforts to figure out how to repeal DADT, we can all agree that it’s bad politics for the federal government to have to go on-record defending the policy in a court of law while they simultaneously press for the policy’s repeal in the Legislature.
In any event, today is a victory for Lt. Dan Choi, and all LGBTQ servicemen in the military. It’s also certainly a sign that the political winds are shifting — and thank goodness for that.