US: Trial of gay former soldier who chained himself to the White House fence resumes

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The trial of a gay soldier who chained himself to the White House fence three times in protest over America’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law has resumed.

Former US Army lieutenant Dan Choi was dismissed in 2010 after coming out as gay on the Rachel Maddow TV show.

He was then billed by the US Defence Department for $2,500 (£1,650) for failing to fulfil his military contract. Choi is refusing to pay.

In November 2010, Choi was arrested after handcuffing himself to the White House fence, along with 12 other gay rights campaigners.

It was in protest at Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, America’s ban on openly gay members of the armed forces.

DADT was finally repealed in September 2011.

Choi believes his actions helped galvanise the political campaign to remove the homophobic law.

“We knew that presidential leadership was critical to civil rights and military service. Our commander-in-chief (President Obama) finally led only after we used the same tactics of Alice Paul, the Suffragettes, African American civil rights protestors, and many other identity groups that have won their equality through sacrifice,” Choi said.

The prosecution is being pursued by Assistant US Attorney Angela George.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will attend the hearing in support of Choi and will also act as a human rights observer.

“This looks like a petty, vindictive prosecution,” Mr Tatchell said. “Lt Choi was arrested for protesting peacefully against a homophobic military policy that is now repealed.

“He helped draw public attention to a grave injustice and contributed to it being ended. Dan is a human rights hero. It makes no sense to continue with his trial. This prosecution is morally wrong and a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

The trial, which began in August 2011, has been on hold for more than a year due to procedural disputes.

Activists and supporters are planning peaceful actions in support of Choi on Thursday morning.

Reverend Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Republican Fred Karger and comedian Margaret Cho are expected to make appearances in support of Choi.

Choi will represent himself in court. He has often conducted his cases without lawyers.

In his six arrests to date, the government lost five prosecutions but this federal criminal trial carries the harshest punishment: six months in a federal prison.