Gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi earlier this year informed a federal judge in D.C. that he has dismissed the attorneys representing him in a trial for his November 2010 arrest for chaining himself to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Choi told the Blade this week he’s leaning toward representing himself in a practice referred to in the court system as pro se representation.
“Frank Kameny has been a major inspiration in that way,” said Choi, referring to the late gay rights leader from D.C. Kameny represented himself before the U.S. Supreme Court in the late 1960s in an unsuccessful challenge to his firing from a federal government job because he was gay.
The petition that Kameny wrote asking the high court to take his case has been hailed as a precedent-setting manifesto for the gay rights movement.
“I think for activists, especially for people who protest at the public square, there’s no more powerful thing and there’s no greater empowering moment than to stand before the judge and let them hear your own voice,” Choi said.
He said he’s weighing whether to appeal his own case to the Supreme Court to challenge a procedural ruling preventing him from arguing at trial that he was targeted for “vindictive” or “selective” prosecution.
If the Supreme Court were to refuse to take his case or if he forgoes that appeal, his trial, which began in August 2011, would resume in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Prosecutors used a harsher than usual federal law to charge Choi with a misdemeanor count of disobeying a lawful order by police to move away from the White House fence after he and nearly a dozen others handcuffed themselves to the fence. All of the other protesters agreed to a government offer to plead guilty to forgo a trial and to have the charge dropped if they refrained from getting arrested again at the White House for four months.
Choi refused that offer, saying his aim is to win an acquittal at trial on grounds that his action handcuffing himself to the White House fence is protected by his First Amendment right to free speech and should not be considered an illegal act.