Choi to White House, OutServe and Knights Out Provide an Out

With a Sunday morning tweet, former Lt. Dan Choi announced his plans for the week, writing, “True freedom is gained by going to jail for justice.”

Today, he has written that a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protest will be happening at the White House at 2 p.m. The news follows Get Equal’s visit to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), where they report, “Being told that the White House hasn’t engaged with Senator Reid’s office on #DADT repeal.”

OutServe and Knights Out (an organization Choi helped form), however, appear to see things differently, providing opponents of lame-duck repeal with the first gay voices giving the go-ahead to politicians who might wish to cut DADT repeal from the National Defense Authorization Act.

In a joint statement issued by the groups, they write:

[O]n behalf of the more than 1,000 active duty gay and lesbian service members and 500 gay and lesbian veterans we represent, we respectfully urge Congress to pass the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act to fund the aircraft, weapons, combat vehicles, ammunition and promised pay-raises for all troops, whether or not the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is included.

To be clear, we will continue to fight for our integrity as gay and lesbian service members and we hope that legislative action in Congress can be taken in 2010 to lift the ban. With the support of President Obama, Chairman Mullen, Secretary Gates and the reported seventy-percent of service members surveyed, a new day of openly gay service is at hand if Congress acts during this lame duck session. We are proud to serve in the United States Armed Forces today and tomorrow.

[UPDATE: Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson calls the Knights Out and OutServe position a "non-starter," writing to Metro Weekly:

It has been the position of the organizations that actually work on repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' to strongly oppose stripping the repeal language out of the defense authorization bill. That position has been based on the reality of the vote count, and those facts on the ground here in Washington have not changed. Servicemembers United, which is the nation's largest gay troop and veteran group by far, strongly agrees with the White House that stripping DADT out of NDAA is simply a non-starter.

Nicholson is not alone. Human Rights Campaign vice president of communications Fred Sainz told Metro Weekly in an email:

This is the work of good people who are extremely naïve legislatively. Their statement does not represent the consensus opinion of the organizations that work day-in and day-out on this issue. NDAA must be passed and it must include DADT repeal this year; the two should not be separated.

NDAA is the best and most sure-fire way to get DADT repealed. Remember, NDAA is how DADT became a law to begin with. The genius of the strategy was to incorporate DADT into the underlying bill so that we would be at this point right now.

As organizations sort out the impact of today's OutServe and Knights Out announcement, it is clear that the D.C.-based organizations working for repeal were caught off guard by it.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: J.D. Smith of OutServe issued the following statement, responding to the outcry from LGBT groups after OutServe's earlier statement:

Let us be clear on where we stand as we begin this lame duck session. Nowhere do we call for repeal to be stripped from the NDAA. No matter what, we will be soldiers in this fight and the real issue is this: while people like Senator McCain continue to demonize us as unpatriotic and disloyal soldiers, we will stand strong with our fellow military members.  Unlike Senator McCain, we refuse to abandon our comrades at a time when this country is dealing with multiple military conflicts. 

Senator McCain should be the target of the blame for the continued stalling and distractions during this process, and is responsible, ultimately, for perpetuating discrimination against gay and lesbian service members. 

In the past few years on active duty, my greatest support has come from straight active duty service members.  They have stood by me when leadership tried to investigate me under DADT and risked their careers in order to protect me. They have been the rock of my support over the years. As a gay man and a proud member of the military, I have two dogs in this fight. It is incredibly painful to see how politicians - especially Senator McCain - will play politics with the lives of patriotic Americans, gay and straight.]

Check back at Metro Weekly for more developments on DADT throughout the day.

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