Leading Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Protester Discharged From Army

Recently Lt. Dan Choi chained himself to the White House fence to protest Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Yesterday, he found out that he'd been discharged from the Army because he's gay.

Lt. Dan Choi, who had become one of the most vocal critics of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy while still serving, has been formally discharged from service:

One of the most vocal critics of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been honorably discharged for being in violation of the policy.

Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and first lieutenant with the Army National Guard, said he learned of the decision on Thursday.

“It’s painful mostly, not that my career is coming to an end, but really that it’s been a very difficult year,” he said in an interview.

Though his discharge has been rumored for weeks in the gay blogosphere and among gay rights activists, Choi said he only officially learned of the discharge on Thursday after a phone call from his commander.

“The Army said I was notified by letter to my home of record, which is Orange County, Calif.,” Choi said. “My dad apparently signed for the letter and, well, that’s what they say.”

Choi hasn’t spoken to his father since October, he said.

He emerged as the face of gay and lesbian service members discharged under the policy when he came out publicly during a March 2009 MSNBC interview — essentially violating “don’t ask, don’t tell” in front of a primetime television audience.

The military started discharge proceedings shortly after the interview. The move angered gay rights groups and other opponents of the policy, who cited Choi’s training as an Arab linguist as reason enough to keep him in the military.

There’s no question that Choi violated the DADT policy, so the discharge would be an appropriate sanction in this case. I get the impression that Choi knew this would happen, accepted it, and is willing to accept the sanction to make a political point.

Choi would seem to be the perfect example of why the policy makes no sense whatsoever. He’s a West Point graduate, with a degree in Arabic, and he served as an infantry officer in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, but he’s being discharged because he told Rachel Maddow he’s gay. Yes, that’s the law right now, but this is just another reason why the law makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Somewhat ironically, Choi says he wants to rejoin the military if and when DADT is repealed. So let me get this straight — we’ve got a guy who actually wants to serve and we’re kicking him out ? Explain that to me.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Joyner says:

    Well, as you say, the military brass has no choice. There’s a law on the books and Choi is flagrantly, publicly, and repeatedly making it known he’s in violation.

    But this is how we call attention to stupid laws and get them off the books.

  2. just me says:

    This is something congress can easily fix.

    And while I am sure there will be blow back from some political quarters, I think the time has come to end this policy. I really don’t think it will do anything to hurt military preparedness and it makes no sense to discharge perfectly capable and highly trained military members for no reason other than they are open about who they are attracted to.

  3. mike says:

    I agree it is a bad policy. I have yet to see a case (and I have handled many Chapter 15s for the army over the past several years) where the Army outed the person and discharged them – rather the soldier does what Choi did and volunteers the info in order to get out (although Choi does not appear to want to get out – the cases I saw, they all wanted to get out).

  4. Herb says:

    But think about shower time…. What if someone drops the soap?!!?!?!?!

    Actually, Doug, I think you’re absolutely right that the law makes no sense. I also think that the law will be changed……by a liberal.

  5. Wayne says:

    An Officer chaining himself to the Whitehouse fence while in uniform deserves to be discharge regardless of why he did it.

    I’m not convinced that doing away with this policy is the right thing to do. IMO gays can serve without many issue if they act appropriately but I can see many not doing so. Not having some rules to deal with that will cause problems. However those rules will likely not be in place because of PC B.S. and the likely quick tendency to play the “Gay card”.

    The argument that Choi has value to the military does not mean Choi can break the rules as he see fit. His actions make him more of a liability than an asset. We have disciplined soldiers for far less improper action while in uniform than chaining themselves to the Whitehouse fence.

  6. sam says:

    Just a question, Wayne, were you ever in the service?

  7. Wayne says:

    Yes for a good amount of time too and in various capacities. Mostly in combat arms though. Why? You not going to try the B.S. chicken hawk argument are you?

    Have you served?

  8. sam says:

    No, I was just curious. Yeah I served, a long time ago, now. Over 50 years, Marines.

  9. Wayne says:

    Not sure how long ago you mean by that but Hooah or Hoo-rah in your case. My understanding is that back in the Vietnam era and early 70’s appearance and behavior standard weren’t quite as high as in my day. Although most of the better units were still pretty high.

    Anyway in my day our actions and appearance were highly regulated especially while in public and in uniform, political speech even more so. Many don’t see the reason for not allowing long hair, piercing, colorful spike hair, sloppy uniform in garrison and public, political speech and what not. Many like me do however. IMO sometimes they overdo it but they need to set the standard somewhere.
    If all the standards that don’t directly impact job duties are taken away, it will result in a far less discipline and professional military. Therefore the end result would be a great detrimental impact on job performance.
    Campaigning for a candidate while in uniform would be wrong. Getting in front of the Press and bashing the President would be wrong. Attending a KKK rally, taking part of a gay parade, handcuffing yourself to the White House fence while in uniform is wrong.

    Did Hoi officially get booted because of inappropriate action in uniform? No. Probably could have but he probably gave them a much easier way of booting him when he was called in to answer for his action.

  10. An Interested Party says:

    “I’m not convinced that doing away with this policy is the right thing to do.”


    “IMO gays can serve without many issue if they act appropriately but I can see many not doing so.”

    Oh, like simply admitting to others that they are gay?

    “Not having some rules to deal with that will cause problems.”

    To deal with what, specifically?

  11. sam says:

    “Not sure how long ago you mean by that…”

    I should have written, “Over 50 years ago” — I went in in 1958.

  12. Wayne says:

    Interesting time between Korea and Vietnam. You serve at same time as my dad. I believe he spent a good deal of his time on the West Coast.

    Many reasons of which many others and myself in past have explained. For instance line units are still close quarters units and they have enough confrontation issues to deal with. Having two people sexually engaged in the same unit brings up many problems and it would be 10 fold in a front line unit. Rules don’t stop certain behavior.

    2nd part. People in groups often bring elements of it to work. If those elements are of somewhere near mainstream and even sometimes when it is, can cause issues and a hostile environment. Rules about cursing were created because it was offensive to some. It still is common in front lines unit but you still need to watch yourself when you are not among “friends”.

    If you are in a rap group or Christian band, great. However if you rap\Christian this and that to a point where it causes conflict then it is a problem. There are rules to help commanders take care of those situations. There are rules to take care of someone showing up in an inappropriate uniform. Any Commander cracking down on Homosexuals misbehavior will most likely be accused of being prejudice.

    Rules on what is appropriate homosexuals behavior would need to be spell out but it would be to PC sensitive to do it right. Remember we are talking about the military and rules exist in part to limit confrontation within units and instill discipline.