"Don’t ask, don’t tell" protesters arrested outside White House

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Monday Nov 15, 2010

More than a dozen people protesting the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers have been arrested outside the White House.

Lieutenant Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Robin McGehee and Dan Fotou of GetEQUAL, former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, former U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Elzie, former U.S. Army linguist Ian Finkenbinder, Rob Smith, Roman Catholic priest Geoff Farrow, New York-based activist and blogger Scott Wooledge and Michael Bedwell chained themselves to the White House fence. Choi was among those taken into custody during similar "don't ask, don't tell" protests earlier this year.

"Today, we have sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Senate and President Obama that we expect them to make good on their promises to end this inhumane law this year, during the lame-duck session of Congress," said McGehee in a statement released shortly before she and other protesters were taken into custody.

The arrests coincided with the start of Congress' lame duck session, which could provide the last realistic chance of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" until at least after the 2012 presidential election. President Obama has reiterated his opposition to the policy, but U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] is among those who continue to support "don't ask, don't tell".

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


  • Andrew W, 2010-11-15 16:34:15

    Stupid, childish behavior. These self-important activists think we can simply irritate people into submission. All they are doing is forcing people to avoid us. GetEQUAL has spent the last year (and $700,000) making the LGBT Community look stupid. They should GetLOST before we run out of friends.

  • , 2010-11-15 16:47:04

    Andrew... If they were black and demanding right you’d think differently. YOU do what to help? AGGRESSIVE action is needed but we do need to vote out Obama in 2012 or impeach him... Hes a vulgar partisan and a LIAR. Good for those people! Awareness viability sacrifice..

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-15 16:56:29

    No, I wouldn’t. It’s 2010 and protest doesn’t work. The world has changed, these misfits need to grow up.

  • Simps215, 2010-11-15 19:11:55

    As a community activist and disabled gay veteran I believe civil disobedience does in fact work and is needed.I have been fighting for the illegal injustice against vets a long time. Obama himself has said these type of actions are the reason he is what he is today as a result of "Rights movements". The GOP and those newly elected now realize we are a force to be reckoned with by actions such as these. We need more support for this and to stand united, wish I had been there.

  • , 2010-11-15 19:24:11

    Joseph you are totally right! What these people dont realize is that it was always the activists that made things happen and We need to be in the streets at all times... Stonewall MLK Rosa Parks All people and times of activism and change.. SO what if its 2010 it may as well be 1910 for us and I am responsible for the Die In at south station. @ Andrew.. just live in your tiny 2010 world.. but hon, honestly at best we are tolerated... We are the last minority who are not only enraged by our oppressors but strive to be like them!!! WTF Str8 acting Str8 appearing my ass... SO much more internalized homophobia today back in the 80s/90s not close to as much.. narcissism and gen y have one thing we never had APATHY!!!!

  • , 2010-11-15 19:25:19

    PS tell any other minority they cannot marry or serve and see what happens!!!

  • , 2010-11-15 19:27:45

    sorry i said william you are so right i meant simps215 YOU are so right

  • , 2010-11-15 19:36:08

    My soon to be step-daughter is one of the 13. She is educated, talented, dedicated, and READY TO SERVE. Just like thousands and thousands of others. C’mon. It IS 2010.

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-15 19:37:40

    Maybe Simps215 can give us an example of successful "civil disobedience" in the last 25 years? Right now there’s an idiot in NYC (Alan Loonville) who is engaging in a "hunger strike" and NOBODY cares. Dan Choi tried that for a week and everybody laughed. This year we had a few sit-ins and even stopped traffic in las Vegas - NOBODY CARED. The tactic of civil disobedience is from a different time. They were used to attract "attention" when something was going un-noticed. WE ARE NOT UN-NOTICED. 97% of America is very aware of our struggle. We don’t need to irritate people, we need to enroll them. We need them to stand with us. Doing childish stunts doesn’t do that. It’s 2010 and we have incredible methods for communication - we should use them. Street theater and marching around "mad" doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s why nobody uses those old-school tactics. The world has grown up - we should, too. GetEqual has only succeeded in making us look like ignorant misfits - kinda like Westboro Baptist.

  • ashkewoof, 2010-11-15 22:28:59

    Dear Andrew, have you ever participated in a protest, from planning to organizing to execution? This is an empowering process for those with voice and energy to share. Suffering is a sad, terrible part of the process on the road to equality and freedom. Through the sacrifice of others, those who may never have stood beside us are moved to action and participation in the joys and pains of any struggle to have our humanity, dignity and liberty respected if not affirmed. If you have been a part of the whole process, what made you stop? If you haven’t done a complete cycle, I highly recommend you do so even once for your own sake and perspective. Freedom, equality

  • nikko, 2010-11-15 22:41:01

    I agree with Andrew w. getting themselves in legal trouble isnt helping anyone’s case

  • Ben, 2010-11-15 23:32:20

    Andrew, civil disobedience has always worked, and has for centuries! Women getting the vote, civil rights movement, Gandhi in India, etc. More recently, Andrew, in eastern Europe during the fall of communism. Remember how Yeltsin came to power? Here in the U.S. we saw it when the Chicago factory workers at Republic Windows and Doors in 2008 refused to leave until they got their pay and jobs secured. I could go on and on. When people stand up for something and get others involved the public takes notice. When you’re carried away brutally for supporting someone’s civil rights, without fighting back; or if you demonstrate such great commitment by going on a hunger strike (which is how changes have come about from Northern Ireland to prison reform), and it makes the news, it embarrasses all the good people out there who have been silent. Yes, some of these heroes get ignored, but with any groundswell, eventually it pays off. Cynicism and depending on corporate-owned members of Congress who have different priorities, won’t help you achieve the goal. We have to take it for ourselves.

  • , 2010-11-16 02:02:36

    Poor AndrewW - GetEQUAL has got you frantic trying to post your jibberish everywhere on the web today (as usual). You’ll be up way past your bedtime tonight, the story is everywhere.

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-16 03:08:32

    This stunt was ignored by the media, except for the few LGBT cheerleader websites. The majority of the comments have been dismissive. Sure there are some historical references to protest and civil disobedience being effective, but not during the last 20-25 years. Today’s childish stunts by GetEqual were self-serving attempts to get attention so they can raise money - not to further our efforts. This nearly bankrupt organization has wasted $700,000 for what? A few meaningless arrests and a very small amount of media coverage? From Dan Choi to GetEqual these embarrassing faux martyrs have repeatedly made our community look stupid.

  • Lyndon Evans, 2010-11-16 09:52:39

    GetEqual etal stoops to a new low using gay war veteran’s gravesite for a photo op.

  • scotty, 2010-11-16 10:15:53

    I really don’t think that by getting in trouble with the law that it will do us any good in trying to get rights. It only feels like they are giving us a bad name.

  • , 2010-11-16 16:16:00

    Helps? Please. Obama saw them out there and cussed, called them some names and picked up his red phone and had them hauled off from his front lawn. That’s as far as it made anything. It just costs money and causes more people to hate the gay community. Period.

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-16 17:26:28

    GetEQUAL needs to GetLOST. Enough of these childish antics, there is real work to do.

  • Simps215, 2010-11-16 18:04:21

    Thank God most of us agree it is working and needs to be continued or we will be second class forever. There were sceptics in the civil rights, women’s rights movements and any other cause worth fighting for. "Don’t make waves it will only make them mad", fact is the USA would not even be here if everyone felt that way. Unfortunately even those that sit and are critical of the rest reap the benefits and are usually the first to pat themselves on the back since the rest of us are too tired. I have seen this so many times before. For the record it has been covered in the media, Local and National television - I have heard from as far as Nova Scotia on this and it was one of the first things I heard on local radio this morning.

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-16 21:03:38

    Bull-shit Simps - it wasn’t covered beyond the LGBT media and a few blogs. It isn’t about not "making people mad" it is about effective communication. These same idiots did a protest against Exxon in July and prevented people from purchasing gas at a convenience store in Dallas. It did piss people off (because they have nothing to do with Exxon, they just wanted to buy their gas) and had absolutely NO effect on Exxon. These publicity stunts are not intended to change any minds, they are intended to raise money for their salaries. They have a few people who think they are effective - you included. But, they haven’t drawn any participation to their stunts or raised any money from the community. They are running out of their original $700,000 and nobody with any sense will donate. This GetEQUAL nightmare will be over soon.

  • , 2010-11-18 20:00:01

    Dear Andrew W, I notice that you take every opportunity to post derogatory comments regarding GetEQUAL on various sites. Why? I am a serving member of GetEQUAL’s Board of Directors. My salary is ZERO; in fact, I had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection this July. I took part in the Direct Action at the White House. Direct Action is a valid civil rights principle used by Gandhi, Dr. King and Act-Up. If you’d like to read my rationale for this particular action read "Why I handcuffed myself to the White House fence" on my site Father Geoff Farrow

  • Andrew W, 2010-11-18 23:30:37

    Hello Father Geoff, I appreciate you efforts and your belief in civil disobedience - it does have historical support. But, it is 2010 and the world has changed - especially here in America. Communication has changed. The majority of Americans (82%) find "protest" to be ineffective and irritating. I think the main reason for that is that everybody knows everybody’s discontent or disagreement - or they don’t care. Inconvenience them or shocking them doesn’t change their mind. I do NOT post derogatory comments about GetEQUAL, I am asking people to embrace accountability. I am asking people to determine whether our tactics are effective or even helpful. I am asking people to establish specific goals. I am asking people to figure out how to WIN and design a strategy around that. GetEQUAL has wasted $700,000 this year. They have put on a dozen publicity stunts. They haven’t changed any minds or garnered any support for our community. That isn’t my opinion, it is a fact. The goal of GetEQUAL has been to "embarrass, humiliate, shame or inconvenience politicians into submission." It was destined to fail because it will not work and most politicians find it amusing. You mentioned ActUp and i agree that effort was effective. People were dying and it was a very necessary "wake-up" call. I admire those efforts. But, the world has changed. Politically speaking their are three camps: those that hate us because of their religious beliefs, those that understand us because they know it isn’t a choice and those that don’t care. The first group will NEVER support us because they’d have to give up their "god" which is also their entire purpose in life. The second group gets it. But, the third group is the target - they can make the difference. Ask yourself what they think of the GetEQUAL "stunts" that embarrass, humiliate or inconvenience" people? Do you believe that helps us? That’s the problem with accountability is that you have to look at the consequences and you have to decide if tactics help us or hurt us. I think we owe it to each other and all those that came before us to be honest and objective about every tactic, method, plan or strategy we use. I have been very critical of GetEQUAL and i will continue to do so until they furnish either some evidence or some rationale that their tactics are helpful. We have spent the last 40 years "trying everything" and hoping to succeed "one of these days." Well, that’s not good enough for me and shouldn’t be for you, either. There are many effective organizations that are helping create our equality - GetEQUAL is not one of them. I wish the $700,000 they’ve wasted went to those groups, or even you. I looked at your website and I appreciate your sincere enthusiasm. I think you’re an authentic guy that could change a lot of minds. I just don’t think you do it by protesting - I think you use conversation and all the other wonderful tools of the 21st century. We need people to join us and support us. We need to educate, enlighten and enroll. That is accomplished with conversation, not confrontation. I appreciate your comment and I wish you well.

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