Daniel Choi
BornFebruary 22, 1981
Alma materWest Point

Daniel Choi (born February 22, 1981)[1] is a former American infantry officer in the United States Army who served in combat in the Iraq war during 2006-2007.[2] He became an LGBT rights activist following his coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009 and publicly challenged America's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which forbade lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) service members from serving openly.[3][4]

On October 19, 2010, Choi applied to rejoin the US Army.[5][6]

Early life

Choi is a native of Orange County, California, the son of a Korean-American Baptist minister.[7] He graduated from Tustin High School then attended the United States Military Academy at West Point.[8]

Choi was very active with extracurricular activities during his high school years. He served as student body president, was on the varsity swim team, and was the marching band drum major. During his senior year, after watching Saving Private Ryan, he decided to attend West Point.[9]

Military education and career

Choi graduated from West Point in 2003 with degrees in Arabic and environmental engineering.[10] Choi served as an infantry officer in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division[10] in 2006 and 2007. In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. Choi served as a National Guardsman with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, based in Manhattan.[10]

Choi received a discharge letter following his coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show. In response, Choi penned an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and the United States Congress.[11] In the letter, Choi challenged the morality and wisdom of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, writing that the policy is "a slap in the face to me. It is a slap in the face to my soldiers, peers and leaders who have demonstrated that an infantry unit can be professional enough to accept diversity, to accept capable leaders, to accept skilled soldiers."

Despite his appeal and a Courage Campaign petition signed by almost 162,000 people,[12] on June 30, 2009, a panel of New York National Guard officers recommended that Choi be discharged from the military.[13] As of February 2010, Choi was serving again in his National Guard reserve unit, the discharge having not yet been "finalized".[14] On June 29, 2010, Choi's discharge was finalized.[15]

Choi is among 59 gay Arabic linguists, along with nine gay Farsi linguists, who have faced a discharge from the U.S. military from 2004 through 2009, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.[16]

Gay rights activism

Since Choi's coming out, 38 West Point alumni also came out and announced the formation of Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni who support the rights of LGBT soldiers to serve openly. Choi was one of the founding members and is the spokesperson for the group.[17] The organization offers "to help their alma mater educate future Army leaders on the need to accept and honor the sacrifices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops."[17][18]

Choi has also spoken at numerous gay rights events, including a march in Los Angeles following the California Supreme Court's affirmation of Proposition 8. On May 27, 2009, he addressed a demonstration of gay activists outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where President Barack Obama was speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund raising event.[19] In addition, Choi spoke at the 2009 Pride Rally in New York City and served as a Grand Marshal alongside Knights Out in San Francisco's 2009 Gay Pride Parade.[20]

On July 16, 2009, Choi was in Culver City, California, to introduce the premiere of Abe Forman-Greenwald's documentary called Silent Partners.[21] The documentary is the fourth episode in the In Their Boots series, with the episode focusing on the partners of LGBT soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the episode, Choi criticizes the U.S. military's neglect of the partners of service members.[21]

In February 2010 Choi was selected to be a Grand Marshal of the 41st Annual New York LGBT Pride March by its producers, Heritage of Pride.[22][23][24] At the event, Choi led the Pledge of Allegiance at the New York City Council Chambers.[25]

In March 2013, Outright Libertarians announced that Dan Choi was joining the GLBTQ caucus of the Libertarian Party as an honorary board member.[26]

In June 2013, Choi and numerous other celebrities appeared in a video showing support for Bradley Manning.[27][28]

2010 protests and arrests

On March 18, 2010, Choi and another ousted military officer, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, handcuffed themselves to the fence of the White House. They were eventually removed with the use of a master handcuff key and arrested.[29][30][31] Choi and Pietrangelo were initially set to be tried for "failure to obey a lawful order" on April 26, 2010.[32][33] Trial was postponed until July 14, at which time the charges against both men were dropped.[15]

On April 20, 2010, Choi and Pietrangelo again participated in a self-chaining protest on the White House fence with Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer (Rtd.) Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas. All six were removed with a master hand-cuff key and arrested.[34]

On May 27, 2010, Choi and Pietrangelo began a hunger strike until President Obama ends DADT and adds a non-discrimination policy to the military code.[35] They ended the hunger strike seven days later, with Choi saying, "The fast of the past seven days has been a success because people have been educated to the use of fasting as a tool to bring attention to a set of clear political and social demands."[36]

In November, 2010, Choi again handcuffed himself to the White House fence with 12 other protestors. He was subsequently arrested and charged in Federal court. The case of United States v. Choi took more than two years to conclude. On March 28, 2013, Choi was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of "Failure to Obey Lawful Order" and fined $100.[37][38]

Court ruling,

On October 12, 2010, U.S. federal judge Virginia Phillips ordered the Department of Defense to stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell” –the law that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military.[39] On October 19, Judge Phillips further refused a federal government request to stay the order pending appeal.[40] That same day, Dan Choi went to the Times Square recruiting station in New York to rejoin the U.S. Army[40] (referred to in one source as "reaccesion");[41] his request is in process.[5] Choi reaffirmed his intention to rejoin the service on December 19.[42] Following the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" by Congress, Choi was present at the U.S. Interior Department to attend President Obama's signing of the bill on December 22, 2010.[43]

2011 arrest in Moscow

On May 28, 2011, Choi was among a number of both Russian and foreign activists (including Louis-Georges Tin and Andy Thayer) who were arrested by Moscow police when Moscow Pride was held in spite of a ban by city authorities.[44]

See also

  • United States v. Choi
  • Sexual orientation and the United States military


  1. Dan Choi, soldier & activist (LGBT History Month). Bent Alaska (8 October 2011). Archived from the original on April 14, 2012. Retrieved on 2013-11-02.
  2. Bumiller, Elisabeth. "Gay Guardsman Has Returned to Drills With His Unit", The New York Times, February 12, 2010. Retrieved on April 30, 2010. 
  3. Baram, Marcus. "Dan Choi, Fired Gay Arabic-Speaking Linguist, Speaks To Rachel Maddow" (Flash video), Huffington Post, May 7, 2009. 
  4. 'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday March 20, 2009 (Transcript). MSNBC.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Pareene, Alex (October 20, 2010). "Don't ask, don't tell" no longer enforced, Dan Choi reenlists. Salon.
  6. Flaherty, Anne. "Troops discharged for being gay try to re-enlist",, October 29, 2010. 
  7. Crary, David. "Gay West Point grads target ban on serving openly", San Francisco Chronicle, April 12, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-07-22. Archived from the original on 2010-03-19. 
  8. James, Elysse (July 23, 2010). Gay soldier's discharge delivered to parents' Tustin home. The Orange County Register. Retrieved on 2010-07-23.
  9. Outspoken « KoreAm Journal – Korean America's Premier Magazine. (2010-07-23). Retrieved on 2013-11-02.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 McMichael, William (March 18, 2009). West Point grads form gay support group. Army Times. Retrieved on 2009-10-11.
  11. Choi, Daniel. "Lt. Daniel Choi Begs to Keep His Job in National Guard", Open Letter to President Obama and Every Member of Congress, ABC News, May 11, 2009. 
  12. the Statement of Support for Lt. Dan Choi. Courage Campaign.
  13. Discharge recommended for gay Army officer, supporters say. CNN. June 30, 2009.
  14. Montopoli, Brian (February 9, 2010).Openly Gay Soldier Dan Choi Back in Uniform. CBS News blog.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Osborne, Duncan (July 20, 2010). Dan Choi, Now Discharged, Sees DC Protest Charge Dismissed. Gay City News. Retrieved on July 21, 2010.
  16. Nasaw, Daniel. "Don't ask, don't tell: gay veteran of Iraq takes on US army", June 29, 2009. Retrieved on November 6, 2009. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 West Point Alumni supporting the LGBT soldiers. Home page. Knights Out. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-10-11.
  18. Dizon, Rhiza (March 17, 2009). West Point Grads Form Gay Support Group. Advocate. Retrieved on 2009-10-11.
  19. Milazzo, Linda (May 30, 2009). Lieutenant Dan Choi Takes 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' Directly To Obama. L.A. Progressive.
  20. Keeling, Brock (June 30, 2009). Gay Pride Grand Marshal Lt. Dan Choi Faces Discharge. SFist. Retrieved on 2009-10-11.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Zavis, Alexandra. "'Silent partner' examines what happens when people 'don't tell'", Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2009. 
  22. Template:Cite press release
  23. Langfelder, Natasia. "'Lt. Dan Choi to be Grand Marshal at Pride Parade", LEZGET Real, February 10, 2010. 
  24. Broverman, Neal. "'Gay N.Y. Hearts Dan Choi", The Advocate, February 10, 2010. 
  25. Lombardi, Frank and Lisberg, Adam. "Dan Choi, Iraq war veteran, is honored at annual gay pride celebration", New York Daily News, June 15, 2010. 
  26. Template:Cite press release
  27. "Celeb video: ‘I am Bradley Manning’ - Patrick Gavin", Politico.Com, 2013-06-20. Retrieved on 2013-11-02. 
  28. I am Bradley Manning (full HD). YouTube (2013-06-18). Retrieved on 2013-11-02.
  29. Graham, Nick. "'Dan Choi Handcuffs Himself to White House In Don't Ask Don't Tell Protest'", Huffington Post, March 18, 2010. 
  30. Conant, Eve (March 18, 2010).Dan Choi Arrested at White House.
  31. Montopoli, Brian. "'Lt. Dan Choi Arrested at White House During Gay Rights Rally", CBS, March 18, 2010. 
  32. Najafi, Yusef (March 19, 2010). "Not Guilty, Not Ashamed and Not Finished". Metro Weekly.
  33. Conant, Eve (March 22, 2010). "Lt. Dan Choi on His Arrest Over DADT".
  34. Montopoli, Brian. "'Dan Choi, Other Gay Rights Protesters Arrested After Chaining Selves to White House Fence'", CBS News, April 20, 2010. 
  35. Conant, Eve (May 28, 2010)."House Approves Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'".
  36. "Choi Ends DADT Hunger Strike". The Advocate, June 2, 2010.
  37. JESSICA GRESKO (1 November 2011). Dan Choi Trial Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' White House Protest Put On Hold. Huff Post - Politics., Inc.. Retrieved on 6 February 2012.
  38. Anya, Callahan. Why Gay Military Activist Lt. Dan Choi Won’t Be Paying His $100 Court Fine. Campus Progress. “After more than two years of legal battles, LGBT activist Lt. Dan Choi was convicted of a misdemeanor by a federal judge and fined $100 on Thursday, March 28. Lt. Choi was tried for one count of "Failure to Obey Lawful Order" for a protesting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in front of the White House back in 2010. Since the judge ruled in the case, Lt. Choi has stated publicly that he won't pay the $100 fee on moral principle and free-speech grounds.”
  39. "Pentagon must stop don't ask don't tell, federal judge rules". Christian Science Monitor. October 12, 2010.
  40. 40.0 40.1 "No delay for 'don't ask don't tell' ruling, so Pentagon takes gays for now". Christian Science Monitor. October 19, 2010.
  41. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Come Back?". December 19, 2010.
  42. "Dan Choi Intends to Rejoin the Military" New York Magazine, December 22, 2010.
  43. "Obama signs 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal" Atlanta Journal Constitution (AP), December 22, 2010. (Photo captions).
  44. Moscow Gay Pride - Our Annual Blog. UK Gay News (May 28, 2011).

External links

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