Dan Choi Blasts Obama, Prepares for Trial

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Thursday August 18, 2011

Former Lt. Dan Choi certainly knows how to stare down his opponents, but he faces the prospect of six months in prison when he goes on trial in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 29.

Federal authorities arrested Choi and 12 others from GetEQUAL in Nov. 2010 after they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence. Choi faces charges he violated a federal regulation that bans "interfering with agency functions"-in this case refusing to obey an order from the National Park Service, but Choi contends that federal authorities are using an arcane law that was last used against suffragette Alice Paul nearly a century ago to silence him from criticizing President Barack Obama and his handling of the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.' He also refused to accept a plea deal in the case.

"It was clearly because we were fighting for gay rights and we said some things that annoyed the president," Choi told EDGE during a fundraiser he hosted for possible New York City Council candidate Yetta Kurland in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., on Sunday, Aug. 14. Kurland, a lawyer, will represent Choi at his trial.

Obama and the Pentagon certified the repeal of DADT late last month. The Clinton-era law will officially end on Sept. 20, but Choi remains adamant that Obama mismanaged DADT from the start.

"We particularly said that Obama is a political homophobe, he's a silent homophobe, he is disengaged in the 'don't ask, don't tell' fight... that has all been corroborated through the whole of 2010," he said, referring back to his upcoming trial. "So it's clear that political opposition is what we're truly up against."

Choi, who also faces a possible seizure of his veterans benefits if he doesn't pay the Department of Defense more than $3,000 for failure to serve the remainder of his enlistment term after the Pentagon discharged him under DADT, further discussed his pending case.

"The actual charge is obstructing traffic," he said. "That's one of the elements of the charge of failing to obey an order that was necessary for agency functions of traffic and for safety and we will contest to the very end-to the very bitter end. The only people that were obstructing anything were this administration and its DOJ and its federal prosecutors who are obstructing justice. That's the only obstruction that's happened here and it continues."

The DOJ did not respond to EDGE's request for comment.

For his part, Choi said the certification of the end of DADT should have had an immediate impact on his case-and he expects it will.

"It [will] certainly as far as the reasons why it's a moot point for anybody to keep pushing these charges-especially to waste any money on prosecuting us," he said, adding the same standard should apply during a hearing on the status of DADT in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif., on Sept. 1. "Why would the administration waste any money-especially now-putting out lawyers and dealing with it within their communications about why they're prosecuting a gay rights activist, where environmentalists and immigration activists and mountaintop removal and anti-war and Bradley Manning activists, they get charged at the lowest level possible. And when they raise up the level-trump up the charges to a federal charge-I think in their minds they wanted us to just stop."

In terms of the end of DADT becoming an issue in the 2012 presidential election, Choi said LGBT voters must make their presence known.

"Anybody who questions whether we can't be I think is betraying the strength of our community," he said. "Ours is more than just a subordinate wing to the Democratic Party."

Choi further suggested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could prove suitable alternatives to Obama in the White House.

"We want him [Obama] to lead and time and time again he's failed," he said, referring to the health care law, Social Security, Medicare, the increase debt-ceiling and Standard and Poor's downgrading the country's credit rating. "I'm not afraid to say that 'cause I don't get paid by the DNC. You'll ask someone else who has a vested interest in making sure that Obama is protected; I have no interest in that because I don't think Obama is the best choice that we have available."

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.

Comments on Facebook