Saturday, June 27, 2009

DAY 41: DADT Update

It is Pride Weekend here in San Francisco where I am and a lot of people here will be talking this weekend about an end to DADT.

On Thursday, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE wrote:
When Army National Guard Lt. Dan Choi fell in love, he couldn't stop talking about it.
Except for one tiny lie. Matthew, his beloved, became "Martha."
Choi lived in a "don't ask, don't tell" world, an Arabic-speaking West Point graduate and combat veteran of the Iraq war, whose future career, health and housing benefits depended on a smooth relationship with the military.
Caught between fear and freedom, Choi finally couldn't take it anymore. In March, the 28-year-old Harvard student and his friends formed a support group for gay West Point graduates called Knights Out, and a week later, he put on his uniform and went on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show".
Cameras rolling, he said three words that would rocket him to the front of the gay rights movement and earn him an invitation to be one of six celebrity grand marshals in Sunday's Gay Pride Parade:
"I am gay."
Then, his microphone cut out. It remains a technological mystery.
But the roar he created has not died down.
The New York Army National Guard sent Choi a letter in May telling him proceedings had begun to remove him from the military for "moral and professional dereliction." And two days after Choi appears in the Pride Parade, he will have to defend himself in military court.
"I have to prove it's not immoral to tell the truth," he said.
Members of his military unit have written letters of support and offered to testify on his behalf. More than 70 West Point graduates came out of the closet and joined Knights Out.
Many supporters
Since appearing on Maddow's show, Choi has seen his in-box crowded with e-mail calling him a hero. Although he came out to his parents months before going on television, his mother and his Southern Baptist preacher father in Orange County continued to tell him he was shameful.
Choi took a leave from his Middle East and Religious Studies master's degree program at Harvard to do media interviews, and to take a trip to Italy to celebrate out loud with Matthew, a sales executive for Gucci.
"Coming out has turned into a full-time job," he said.
Choi has never been to a gay pride parade before, and he's thrilled to be part of one of the largest ones in the country. Hundreds of thousands are expected to watch more than 200 floats cruise down Market Street, ushered in by a celebrity grand marshal court that includes Oscar-winning actress Cloris Leachman and "Milk" movie producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks. His San Francisco visit will be life changing - but brief. On Tuesday Choi is due back at the New York National Guard Armory in Syracuse at 8 a.m., to stand trial before a panel of colonels who will decide whether to kick Choi out of the military.
He's prepared for whatever comes. Nothing is worse, he said, than living a lie.
"National security means many things, but the thing that makes us secure in our nation and homes is love - what makes me a better soldier, leader, Christian and human being is love and I didn't want to keep hiding it," Choi said.
Choi will be joined in the parade by his younger sister, one of the first family members he confided in. Twenty-eight members of Knights Out are flying in from around the country to walk behind his car in the parade.
"Living in San Francisco, we can think that all the LGBT rights have been won, but Choi's story shows there is still workplace discrimination where people are frightened to come out and live authentically," said Lindsey Jones, executive director of the Pride Parade.
At least 12,500 discharged
At least 12,500 gays and lesbians have been discharged from military service for violating the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a political compromise forged when Bill Clinton was president. An estimated 65,000 are believed to be currently serving in the military.
Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency on a promise to repeal the ban on gays in the military, but has yet to take action. On Monday, 77 members of Congress signed a letter to Obama urging him to repeal the ban. In it, they cited Choi's exceptional service and dedication and a May Gallup poll that found 69 percent of Americans - including 58 percent of Republicans - favor allowing openly gay men and lesbian women to serve in the military.
Becky Kanis, who kept her lover a secret until after she graduated from West Point in 1991, will be marching in the Knights Out contingent behind Choi.
It's the first time West Point graduates have ever marched in a gay pride parade - a little historic push toward making the country a more honorable place, she said.
"Having to lie about who you are dating is what hurts unit morale," she said. "People can sense when you are hiding something, and it builds distrust."
During his 15 months in combat in Iraq, Choi helped rebuild hospitals and return soccer stadiums from torture arenas to playing fields. Because he could speak Arabic, he was vital to negotiating between the military and local governments.
And he told several members of his military unit that he was gay. None, he said, had a problem with it, especially other gay soldiers.
"If I lose all my medical benefits, I won't get health care America," Choi said. "But we rebuilt hospitals in Iraq and the doctors I met there would help me. So we have to take a harder look at this issue of morality."


Keep checking here every day for updates. Talk to your friends and you family too. Keep us in your prayers.

1 comment:

Марко Фризия said...

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network protested at the White House Saturday:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YP5cG1yHvo