Fighting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

In a return appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show," openly gay 1st Lt. Dan Choi talks about being booted by the military -- but accepted by his unit.

By Katie Rolnick
Published May 8, 2009 2:51PM (EDT)

On March 19, 1st Lt. Dan Choi, an infantry leader with the New York Army National Guard, appeared on "The Rachel Maddow Show" and stated, "I am gay." Choi is a West Point graduate, Iraq combat veteran, and Arabic language specialist. He is also a founding member of the independent organization Knights Out, a group of LGBT West Point alumni who, in openly declaring their sexuality, are actively fighting against the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

Thursday night, Choi returned to Maddow's studio (video below) to explain the repercussions he's experienced since then. To no one's surprise, Choi has been asked to withdraw from the Army National Guard. Maddow showed pieces of the letter sent to Choi, which stated, "You admitted publicly that you are a homosexual, which constitutes homosexual conduct ... Your actions negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard."

Choi explained that he can resign and receive honorable discharge or fight the action, which is what he intends to do.

Maddow opened the segment with a story about another dismissed, gay service member, 2nd Lt. Sandy Tsao, who will be discharged as of May 19. After telling her military command that she was gay, Tsao wrote a letter to the White House -- and she received a handwritten reply from President Obama. It read:

Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful letter. It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy. Although it will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action) I intend to fulfill my commitment!

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, more than 12,500 men and women have been discharged under the DADT policy since its implementation in 1994. Of those discharged because of their sexuality, more than 55 have been Arabic language specialists

Though Choi said he was "angry," he was more upset by the implication that his National Guard unit was in some way hindered by his coming out. Maddow asked about his unit's reaction and Choi proceeded with perhaps the most convincing argument for the repeal of DADT: "Two weeks after I appeared on the show we had National Guard training ... I thought, for four days nobody was saying anything, so maybe they don't watch TV or maybe they don't read the Army Times. But at the end of the training, so many people came up to me, my peers, my subordinates, people that outranked me, folks that have been in the Army, and this is an infantry unit, infantry men coming up to me and saying, 'Hey sir, hey Lt. Choi, we know. And we don't care. What we care about is that you can contribute to the team.' And what leaders do is they look to see, how can they make the best team before they go to war, that's what they care about."

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Broadsheet Dan Choi Don't Ask Don't Tell Lgbt Rachel Maddow U.s. Military