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Lt. Dan Choi Speaks Out

The Flagpole Interview with the Anti-DADT Activist

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Monday, Oct. 18, Flagpole was fortunate enough to sit down with former U.S. Army Lieutenant Dan Choi to ask him some questions about his experiences as possibly the most publicly out-of-the-closet military officer in America. It was in March of 2009 that Choi, then a spokesman for Knights Out, an LGBT awareness group consisting of West Point alumni, announced his sexual orientation on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Proceedings began immediately to have Choi discharged from the military, in accordance with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Since then, Choi has become a vocal civil rights activist and a well-known advocate for gay members of the military. It just so happened that the weekend before we spoke with Choi, federal Judge Virginia Philips refused to issue a stay on her ruling that DADT was unconstitutional. On Tuesday, Oct. 19, the Pentagon surprised the nation by taking steps to accept openly gay recruits; Choi was seen in the pages of The New York Times the next day reenlisting. Later that week, the Obama administration issued an appeal, and for now, DADT remains in place. Flagpole: Following the federal court ruling last week… Lt. Daniel Choi: Log Cabin Republicans.

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FP: Right. Can you maybe give people an idea of the mood coming from the LGBT community in the military? Choi: I know that in the LGBT community overall, it’s creating something of a paradigm shift. For so long, we’ve been so tied to the Democrats as a party, and we think that our self-worth is tied to the Democrats’ success every November. And that is becoming a sore spot for not only our community, but for the larger progressive movement. We are beginning to see that this is supposed to be a participatory democracy and not a representative democracy. We’ve tried with this whole representative democracy idea, and, for instance, with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” you have 80 percent of Americans saying, ‘Get rid of this discrimination.’ Well, shouldn’t that mean, if it is truly a representative government, that 80 percent of our officials should vote at least close to that? So, why is it so difficult? And why is it being delayed so long? So, we’re seeing a disconnect, which is what is so angering, not only to our community but to immigration and Muslims and all of the scapegoated and stigmatized groups in America. And the Democrats have been in power for a long time. And we’re realizing that not only with the Tea Party activists, but with people in all of our movements, whether we engage in direct action and go to jail

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for justice, like we did in front of the White House, and [when] we heckled the President, when we stopped traffic… people are realizing they have to participate. And a court case is a way that stigmatized minorities have done this in the past history of our country, from Korematzu v. U.S., the internment camps of Japanese Americans in World War II, to Brown v. Board of Education, to all the cases that continue to come up now. The gay community is realizing that we need to make justice manifests not just with one body of the government, which political pundits have always told us was Congress. Just this year, and parts of last year, we started to say, ‘Well, it must be the president.’ He is the first African-American president, the first racial minority president. And as a minority, still stigmatized in our country, if he’s making it to the presidency, he owes it to not just his party, and not just America, but the civil rights narrative, to be a ‘fierce advocate,’ like he claims he is. And the Log Cabin Republicans are obviously Republicans and are obviously challenging Obama, and obviously rubbing raw that initial and calcified thinking and philosophy that we are tied to the Democrats and that’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re DNC or RNC or “No-NC”; we all have a responsibility to participate, and that’s what these Log Cabin Republicans did. Now that the case has ended

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FP: If the president doesn’t have to throw it to the legislative branch, where do you think that’s coming from? Why are we not seeing enough action from the president? Choi: The DNC. The party machine is a very powerful force, and a dangerous force in our

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successfully for us, that should be the end, that should be it. The president should not appeal it; he’s already done his duty, the DOJ has done their duty, the Justice Department put on a case. They don’t need to do any more beyond that, and that’s a misconception of a lot of people. They’re saying, “It’s his duty. He must.” The only people who are saying that he must appeal are Tony Perkins and the Family Research Counsel. The only people who are saying he must appeal are the people who are ideologically driven to continue hatred against gay people for all their other agendas. So, for the president, as a legal scholar, as somebody who has taught constitutional law, someone who is well-versed in law—he’s taught at Harvard Law School—he should know that his job in the executive branch of the government is not to defend all laws that are unconstitutional. In fact, if it’s unconstitutional, it goes against his duty as an American to be on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of justice, the wrong side of the Constitution, and it’s immoral for him to do that.

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