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Dan Choi trial to resume March 28

Former Army Lt. arrested in 2011 after chaining himself to the White House fence

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Dan Choi, White House, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DADT, GetEqual, gay news, Washington Blade
Dan Choi, White House, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, DADT, GetEqual, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Army Lt. Dan Choi was arrested after chaining himself to the White House fence. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The trial of gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi for his November 2010 arrest for chaining himself to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is scheduled to resume on March 28 in U.S. District Court in D.C.

The trial, which began in August 2011, has been on hold for more than a year over procedural disputes. The prosecutor initiated a highly unusual procedure known as a Writ of Mandamus that successfully overturned a ruling by the judge allowing Choi’s attorneys to argue that Choi was targeted for “selective” and “vindictive” prosecution.

Choi appealed the ruling barring him from using a selective and vindictive prosecution defense, but lost his appeals to higher courts.

At the White House protest, Choi and 12 other LGBT activists and supporters were charged with disobeying a lawful police order to disperse from the White House fence after each of them attached themselves to the fence with handcuffs.

The protest came at a time when many activists, including Choi, believed the Obama administration wasn’t pushing hard enough to persuade Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring gays from serving openly in the military. Congress has since repealed DADT.

Choi was the only one of his fellow protesters that did not agree to an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty to the charge in exchange for having the case dismissed if they weren’t arrested again at the White House within a four-month period.

He argued that he had a constitutional right to protest at the White House fence and called on the government to drop the charge without imposing any conditions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela George, the lead prosecutor, refused that request.

In addition to his constitutional argument, Choi’s attorneys cited a technical breach by U.S. Park Police officers who made the arrests. The officers ordered Choi and the other protesters to disperse from the sidewalk in front of the White House, but Choi and some of the others were standing on an elevated ledge on which the White House fence is attached, not the sidewalk.

Thus Choi was not legally bound to obey the police order, his attorneys argued.

One of his supporters, attorney and gay Army veteran James Pietrangelo, argued in an amicus brief last October that the case should be dismissed because Choi has been improperly denied the ability to call certain witnesses, including gay former White House staffer Brian Bond.

Choi’s attorneys argued at the trial in August 2011 that Bond exchanged emails with the Secret Service and others at the White House in what appeared to be an effort to single out Choi for harsher prosecution. The White House has declined to comment on those allegations, but lead prosecutor George called such claims completely false.

She has argued that Choi’s political beliefs and sexual orientation are irrelevant to the case and that Choi’s arrest was based only on his refusal to obey the police order to disperse from the White House fence.

In a statement released on March 5, Choi said George “has unrelentingly pressed this case for three years now, demanding the maximum jail sentence: 6 months in federal penitentiary.”

Choi added, “My applications to re-enlist in the Army were denied solely because of this trial. Whether it is to ‘teach me a lesson,’ or prevent my reinstatement, or bully those who practice free speech, this prosecution will not give up.”

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Marco Luxe

    March 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    What a waste by Angela George, the prosecution, of scarce judicial resources! Does anyone feel safer?

  2. Robin Tyler

    March 13, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Dan is my friend. I not only admire and respect him, I adore him. He is sensitive and sweet and bright and brave. I am sorry that he has to go through this. It will not bode well for history that he is been prosecuted and persecuted. Please support him in any way you can.

  3. Jake Riley

    March 14, 2013 at 1:52 am

    He is such a media hound. Who cares?

    • Michael Bedwell

      March 21, 2013 at 1:12 am

      What have YOU done to help make LGBT people freer, Mr. Riley? Never mind. Heroes like Dan do it for parasites like you, too.

  4. Willie Millard

    March 17, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Do the crime, do the time. Dan Choi has to realize that his actions were pointless. DADT was repealed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. Gays and Lesbians can openly serve in the military now and even get married.

    Dan Choi was naive enough to believe that Obama wasn’t doing anything about DADT while Obama and others were working hard behind the scenes to get it done. Even if Obama wasn’t doing anything, chaining yourself to a fence and denying tax paying tourists the right to visit the White House grounds for 3-4 hours to deal with a you is not going to make a difference.

    Dan Choi thinks he is fooling the public into believing that he will re-enlist. At a time when Gays and Lesbians in the military need positive role models in leadership positions in the post-DADT world, Dan Choi is running away from an opportunity to actually make a difference in the military.

  5. Michael Sander

    March 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Lt. Choi took action to put his career in the military at risk and be discharged for being gay. As a gay veteran myself who served in silence during DADT I can tell you it is a hazard to your duty as a soldier. To have to always be on guard about what you might slip and say or a stereotyped mannerism you might accidentally make. This forced “Closet Law” did not help GLB service member’s it did the exact opposite. It put our fellow brother’s and sister’s in arms at risk. We know this now because they repealed it! Lt. Choi the “media hound” as you might think he is brought the most public attention to DADT than any other single event. He was Discharged. Being discharged for something you are or being discharged for constitutional right to protest and being arrested for it, which caused his discharge under conditions at, is crippling to a soldier’s soul. To me Lt. Choi is and will be a hero for human rights, equality, and the military. This gay Vet SALUTES YOU SIR!

    CARRY ON SIR!

  6. Michael Bedwell

    March 20, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    @ Willie Millard: anyone who GENUINELY cared about the issues rather than simply throwing monkey dung at Dan would know that 1. Mainstream media was reporting that there was talk by members of the Senate about giving up on the repeal bill; 2. Historians have credited the attention to repeal that Dan and others maintained with GETTING IT PASSED; 3. NO ONE was prevented from “visit[ing] the White House grounds” during the protest, even IF it had lasted for “3-4 hours” which it did not. Transparently, just like Mr. Riley above, because you offer no criticism of substance but rather ad hominems, you’re obviously just another Obambot angry that Dan and others have dared speak Truth about the failings of Your Lord & Savior Obama Christ. Well, you need to add Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin to your Hate List as he dared tell reporters ONE WEEK BEFORE the final vote on repeal that Mr. Obama STILL wasn’t doing all he could to help them pass the bill. So, if you REALLY cared about gay equality, you should be complaining about the President not those like Dan who lost their careers—and have to put up with demonization by members of an ignorant mob like you.

  7. Robin Tyler

    March 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Diane and I will be at Dan's trial.

  8. Jim Stoicheff

    March 22, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    In a time when the government is looking to save money, jails and prisons are overcrowded, and prosecutors and courts overloaded, how can this possibly be a good use of resources?

    • Michael Upton

      March 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      They have one more in jail…your friend Michael Vilkin who murdered my brother yesterday

  9. Augustus Butera

    March 23, 2013 at 4:04 am

    Our court system is in tatters. This is a disgrace. Dan I salute you!

  10. Loïc Jay R

    March 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Godspeed Dan Choi.

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Local

D.C. area LGBTQ bars, eateries receive $100K COVID-19 relief grant

Pitchers, League of Her Own received NGLCC, Grubhub funds

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indoor dining, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. LGBTQ sports bar Pitchers and League of Her Own, its adjoining lesbian bar, are among the nation’s first LGBTQ bars that serve food as well as alcoholic beverages to receive a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant under a $2 million Community Impact Grant Program.

The program, aimed at supporting LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-allied small businesses struggling from the pandemic, was launched in September as a joint project of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which goes by the initials NGLCC, and the global online food delivery company Grubhub.

In a Tuesday announcement, NGLCC and Grubhub said Pitchers and League of Her Own, which operate as one business in adjoining buildings in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, are among the first three recipients of $100,000 grants under the Community Impact Grant Program. The other two recipients are FOODE + Mercantile of Fredericksburg, Va., and Café Gabriela of Oakland, Calif.

“Following this initial round of recipients, more grants will be issued in late 2021 and early 2022,” the announcement by the two groups says. In an earlier announcement, the groups said the application period for the grants program took place from September through Oct. 12, and the grants would range in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been debilitating for countless restaurant and bar owners, including the many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across the country who have persisted through lockdowns, operational changes and labor supply shortages,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “We’re grateful to have partnered with Grubhub to offer real lifelines to support businesses throughout the nation,” Nelson said.

“Building community in a fun and safe place has been our mission since the very beginning,” said David Perruzza, the owner of Pitchers and League of Her Own. “We’re relieved and thankful for these funds, and are looking forward to more stable days ahead,” Perruzza said.

“As a trans masculine and queer immigrant person of color, I’ve worked hard and put all my love and energy into building a beautiful and welcoming space in Café Gabriela,” said owner Penny Baldado. “I’ve remained resilient through COVID, and this grant is the injection of funds that we need to continue along our journey to full recovery,” Baldado said.

The statement announcing the first three grant recipient says funds for the $2 million grant program were generated by Grubhub’s “Donate the Change” program of which NGLCC became a partner in June. Grubhub says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub “to round out their order and donate the difference” to the charitable fund.

“COVID has turned the restaurant industry on its head the last 18 months, and at Grubhub, we’ve been working hard every day to support our restaurant partners across the country,” said Amy Healy, Grubhub’s vice president of government relations. “As the world starts to return to a new normal, we’re proud to partner with the NGLCC and provide these grants to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally-owned restaurants across the country that are pillars of their communities.”

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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