Lions, Meet Daniel. Gay controvesy erupts over Lt. Dan Choi: Fighter for freedom or misfiring martyr?

Posted by JD Uy
March 23, 2010 9:45 AM |
Lt. Dan Choi takes on HRC & Kathy Griffin
Daniel Choi (center) speaking with entertainer Kathy Griffin (right). In the lower left corner, notice HRC President Joe Solmonese speaking with gay rights activist Robin McGehee.

''Harriet Tubman once said she had freed 1,000 slaves but could have freed so many more if they only knew that they were slaves. People don't always know that they are in fetters. Even my feet were shackled so I could only take small steps forward....Those chains symbolized how my country is trying to restrict my movement, how we are only allowed incremental, tiny steps....

''When I heard Kathy Griffin was going to be a spokeswoman for Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I wondered about that. I have great respect for her as an advocate. But if [the Human Rights Campaign] thinks that having a rally at Freedom Plaza with a comedienne is the right approach, I have to wonder. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not a joking matter to me. To be at Freedom Plaza and not at the White House or Congress? Who are they trying to influence? I felt like they were just trying to speak to themselves. If that's the best the lobbying groups and HRC can do, then I don't know how these powerful groups are supposed to represent our community. Kathy Griffin and [HRC president] Joe Solmonese said they would march with me to the White House but didn't. I feel so betrayed by them.''

Lt. Dan Choi speaking with Newsweek about what it was like to be arrested and appear in court in chains. He also addresses the participants at and HRC / Bravo TV rally that occurred last week. He was invited on stage to speak by Griffin but, by all accounts, had not be invited to be a part of the event in the first place. Other gay veterans, Eric Alva and Alexander Nicholson, did appear at the event with Kathy Griffin before Choi took to the stage. Choi tells Newsweek, he was not allowed a phone call or to speak to a lawyer before entering the courtroom. According to Metro Weekly, Choi and Pietrangelo have both opted to stand trial rather than pay the $100 fine. (Newsweek)

''Thank you very much Kathy for being here. And, Joe Solmonese, where are you? We are on the same team. And I want to thank you for standing up for those soldiers who are still serving right now. You're great at telling jokes. But I want to make one thing very clear: This is not a joke. Don't Ask, Don't tell is not a joking matter.... We're at a turning point -- a moment in time where talk is no longer enough, and action is required. i'm not asking, I am telling. I am telling. I am telling. Will you tell with me....

''Our fight is at the White House. And I'm asking you to send a message to the President with me, to my Commander in Chief: Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, not next year, not tomorrow. Now is the time. I am going to the White House, right now.... Kathy will you go with me. [Griffin: "Of course."] Joe Solmonese, will you go with me. Eric Alva will you go with me? Alex Nicholson, will you go with me? Will you all here, go with me? [Crowd cheers.]''

Lt. Dan Choi speaking with entertainer Kathy Griffin at last Thursday's rally against the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers. This exchanged happened just moments before the event blew up as the most controversial moment in gay rights so far this year. Despite their seemingly affirmative responses to Choi's on-the-spot request, none of the speakers from the HRC / Bravo TV rally did join Lt. Choi and Capt James Pietrangelo at the White House. (Metro Weekly)

''It was an honor to meet Lt. Choi, and I had seen him on '60 Minutes' and I, of course had heard about him and stuff. So, I organized this rally with several groups, and he showed up. But he said, 'Can I come up on the podium?' and I said, 'Of course.' And I asked him if he would take questions, and then he then proceeded to go to the White House and chained himself to the fence, which I think is kinda cool and ballsy. However, I'd made a commitment to many, many people who'd showed up to the rally, and my work there was not done. But, I think it's kind of great that he did that. Because it's important that people protest in all kinds of ways.''

Kathy Griffin speaking to Joy Behar after last Thursday's rally against DADT on Freedom Plaza in DC. (CNN via Google)

''There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally. As Joe Solmonese was walking on stage Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.... Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play.''

Portion of a statement from HRC about the controversial actions taken by Dan Choi, Robin McGehee and Jim Pietrangelo -- three gay rights activists who were arrested at the White House last Thursday. The three had apparently invited themselves to an HRC / Bravo TV rally organized for Kathy Griffin and some gay veterans. Many voices in the LGBT community are using this incident as an opportunity to question the Human Rights Campaign's effectiveness, and are taking aim at the leadership of its President, Joe Solmonese, for rubbing elbows with celebrities instead of taking more direct action. McGehee, of the new group Get Equal, assisted Choi and Pietrangelo in handcuffing themselves to the fence of the White House after the rally. (HRC via SDGLN)

''That is simply untrue. I was there, standing next to Dan, about 10 feet from Kathy Griffin and Solmonese. They were behind a rope line, to keep them from the rally attendees. They looked over at Dan when he asked them, for the second time, to come with him to the White House (mind you, they had no idea that he was planning to handcuff himself), and they just stared back at him. They were not helping engage the rally about how to build pressure - the rally was over, they were already off the stage, behind it actually, getting ready to leave behind a secure rope line to separate them from the crowd. I'm sorry, but this statement is flat out untrue. They were getting their photos taken. Unbelievable.''

John Aravosis writing on his AmericaBlogGay of his first person account of what occurred between Dan Choi and DADT protest rally organizers last Thursday. (AmercanBlog)

''This is either bold gay activism, the likes of which we haven't seen since the days of ACT UP, or it is a deafening cry for attention that just damaged the brand and credibility of one of the few real gay leaders the community has right now.... I'm not entirely sure when it was that gays became so complacent that our idea of 'activism' is throwing gala fundraisers for the usual heterosexual celebrities who deign to be supportive of us, but however theatrical and overwrought they may be, Lt. Choi's actions seem to hearken back to an era that I've never really experienced.''

Rob Smith writing for Huffington Post (Huffington Post)

''[W]itness a true hero!!!!''

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. (

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