LGBTI global news 24-7

Gay rights advocate Dan Choi faces jail for peaceful protest

US veteran Dan Choi to stand on trial and may face six months in prison for 2010 peaceful protest against Don't Ask Don't Tell
US gay rights advocate, Dan Choi, faces six months jail for 2010 peaceful protest against Don't Ask Don't Tell

This Thursday, 28 March, at 9am in the US District Court, Washington DC, gay Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, stands trial for past protests against the since repealed anti-gay military policy ‘Don't Ask Don't Tell’ (DADT).

If convicted he faces six month imprisonment.

In 2010 Choi was dismissed from the US Army National Guard after coming out as gay on the Rachel Maddow TV show.

He was then billed by the US Defense Department for $2,500 for failing to fulfill his military contract, which he is refusing to pay.

To protest against his dismissal, and against President Obama’s failure to push for the repeal of DADT, Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence three times in 2010.

Three years after Choi’s handcuffing protests, the US Federal Attorney’s Office refuses to dismiss the charges against him.

Generally, White House protestors are arrested and required to pay $100 fine to a municipal court, the equivalent of a parking ticket.

Instead, in Choi’s case, the US Attorney’s Office is invoking a seldom-used federal level criminal charge called ‘Failure to Obey’.

Choi retorts: ‘The charge is baseless. It assumes traffic was blocked, but there is no traffic to block on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

‘The main reason for this charge is to prevent me from re-joining the military, to paint me as simply disobedient’.

National Security Agency whistleblower, Navy and Air Force veteran Thomas Drake remarked: ‘This is yet another sad example of the federal government overstepping their bounds against critics they do not like’.

The trial Judge, John M. Facciola, has already made a prima facie finding for ‘vindictive prosecution’ in Choi’s case, prompting the prosecution to make legal history by pausing the trial for two years and embroiling him in a Writ of Mandamus fight.

The writ orders the trial judge not to hear evidence concerning the selective prosecution and political targeting of the defendant.

Choi, remains undeterred, remarking: ‘On Thursday I make my full argument for history to hear’.

He will represent himself in court, as he has done in the past.

This federal criminal trial carries the harshest punishment: six months in a federal prison.

However, according to Lt. Choi, he has already suffered the greatest punishment of all: being prevented from reinstatement in the US Army.

He will be supported by many friends and fellow activists in court on Thursday morning.

Veteran British human rights advocate Peter Tatchell will also be attending Choi's trial as a supporter and observer.

He said: ‘Choi was arrested for protesting peacefully against a homophobic military policy that is now repealed.

‘He helped draw public attention to a grave injustice and contributed to it being ended. Dan is a human rights hero. It makes no sense to continue with his trial.

‘This prosecution is morally wrong and a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

‘Of all the many people arrested for chaining themselves to the White House railings, why is only Dan Choi is facing a federal charge and up to six months in prison? This violates the principle of equality for everyone before the law’.

Comment on a news story