Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DADT Activists Arrested at White House Protest

Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas have been arrested after protesting at the White House for the repeal of DADT by chaining themselves to the White House fence.

Here's GetEqual's Press Release:


To schedule participant interviewsContact:  Joel Silberman, 917.287.3816 or joelsilberman@mac.com <joelsilberman@mac.com

Gay and Transgender Vets Again Handcuff Selves to White House Gates
Demand Pres. Obama repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year
Breaking Coverage and Call to Action at: http://GetEQUAL.org/GetDADT
WASHINGTON – Moments ago, Lt. Dan Choi along with five other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) discharged veterans -- Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Airman Victor Price -- handcuffed themselves to the White House gates to demand that President Obama keep his promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year.  The vets are concerned about mounting signs that the President is wavering on his promise to push for repeal this year.

Today’s action comes one month after Choi and Pietrangelo were arrested for a similar DADT protest at the White House in which they handcuffed themselves to the gates for a period of an hour, while hundreds of protesters looked on.  The new LGBT activist group, GetEQUAL, coordinated both today’s action, and last month’s civil disobedience.

“We are handcuffing ourselves to the White House gates once again to demand that President Obama show leadership on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  If the President were serious about keeping his promise to repeal this year, he would put the repeal language in his Defense Authorization budget,” said Choi.  “The President gave us an order at the Human Rights Campaign dinner to keep pressure on him and we will continue to return to the White House, in larger numbers, until the President keeps his promise to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year.”

Amid growing signs that the White House is wavering on its commitment to repeal DADT this year, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) called on the President last month to publicly state his desire to repeal DADT this year.  President Obama has refused to respond, prompting Frank to say last week that he is “disappointed” and “frustrated” with the Obama administration’s silence on DADT. “At this point the President’s refusal to call for repeal this year is a problem,” Frank added, saying that the President’s silence is now costing us votes in the Congress.

Corporal Evelyn Thomas, who participated in today’s action said, “A few weeks ago I saw Lt. Dan Choi take dramatic action at the White House and it made me realize that I needed to do something to stand up for all the Black female soldiers who have been discharged under DADT.  Many people don't know that we Black women are discharged disproportionately more than others under DADT.”

GetEQUAL.org, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist organization, coordinated today's action and is also calling on the public to join the soldiers in their ask on President Obama at: http://GetEQUAL.org/GetDADT<http://GetEQUAL.org/xxxxxxxx.

Today's activities come a day after GetEQUAL activists interrupted President Obama’s speech at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for Senator Barbara Boxer.

Involved in today’s action are:
Lt. Dan Choi served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq in 2006-2007.  Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic.  In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. After coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, he was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him.  Choi is a founding member of KnightsOut, an organization of West Point alumni that advocates for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and he speaks frequently
in support of rights for LGBT members of the military.

Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, a former infantryman and lawyer originally from Ohio, served in the United States Army until he was discharged in 2004 under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.  Pietrangelo fought in Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman and returned as a JAG officer for the second Iraq War.  As he was readying for a third combat tour, he was honorably discharged for declaring he is gay. Pietrangelo sued the government, charging that the policy is unconstitutional.  He appealed to the Supreme Court, but in June
2009, the Supreme Court rejected the case and refused to intervene, at the request of the Obama Administration.

Petty Officer Larry Whitt was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, and grew up in Florida.  Fulfilling a lifelong goal, Whitt joined the Navy after high school and served for 12 years.  He received the Outstanding Sailor Award aboard the USS Compass Island, was a Sailor of the Month aboard the USS Caloosahatchee, and retired as a Petty Officer First Class. He was stationed with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, and
received a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Good Conduct Medals, and a Navy Expeditionary Medal.  Whitt was honorably discharged in October 1982, after he requested discharge for fear of being turned in for being gay. Currently, he is the Color Guard Coordinator for the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights in Ft. Lauderdale.

Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen was born in Northridge, California and raised in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman.  She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician.  Her last ship was the Third Fleet Command Ship, the USS Coronado, where she served as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician from 1996 to 2000. She retired after 20 years as Fire Controlman First Class.  At the end of 1999 and
beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male.  After retiring from the U.S. Navy, she was awarded a Veteran's Administration Service Connected Disability rating.  She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003.  As a transgender activist, she has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations.   She is currently the transgender chair of DOD FedGlobe, and she writes for the blog
Pam's House Blend.

Cadet Mara Boyd, originally from and currently residing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed three years in the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated in the top ten percent of her basic training class before she came out as a lesbian to her commander in the fall of 2002 and was honorably discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in June 2003.  Before she came out, Boyd held the position in her cadet detachment of Cadet Captain, Character Development Officer, having been nominated by the officer cadre and cadet corps to handle the character
development and moral guidance of the entire detachment.  Boyd's ROTC scholarship, which had paid for two years of nonresident tuition, was revoked upon her discharge, and the government demanded that she repay her scholarships and book stipends. Boyd ended up with $30,000 of tuition bills to pay.  Boyd returned to UC Boulder and completed her degree, but she is still paying back the scholarship debt.

Airman Victor Price, originally from Asheboro, NC, served as a Bioenvironmental Engineering Specialist with the United States Air Force.
During his tour, he obtained a BA in business marketing at Delaware State. A Senior Airman, Price was honorably discharged in 2000 under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Corporal Evelyn Thomas, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman.  She was then honorably discharged in 1991.  In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality.  The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

# # #
GetEQUAL is a new online lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activist community.  Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBTQ community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL visit www.getequal.org
 There is quite a bit of debate on whether these tactics will have a positive or negative outcome. Before you judge, realize that these veterans are risking their pensions in this protest and detention. For one of them, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, this detention puts her in a precarious position as a transwoman. If you're interested in why she chose to participate in a protest about a piece of legislation that would not even effect transgender service members, check out Pam's House Blend.

As for me, I think this is the way to go. We've tried to talk to politicians. We've given them our time and our money and our vote. Yet they continue to set aside LGBT issues once in office. To affect change in Civil Rights after all other avenues have failed us, we are left with protest. Non-violent protest has a proven track record. I applaud Get Equal for taking a stand.

These are the kind of people we want defending our nation - those who are willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

1 comment:

Sidhe said...

Thanks for sharing and the introduction to Autumn. I'm a female Firecontrolman (FC) in the Navy, the ironic thing about that is that when I joined the Navy I was not allowed to be an FC because I was a woman. We are all so wrapped up around labels-gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual preference-we don't even know what all those things mean and every one of us has their own interpretation which pretty much makes ANY definition invalid. I am still hopeful that DADT will come to an end this year, the sooner the better and all my shipmates can quit whining (oh, how masculine) about sharing a shower with a gay man when they've been sharing showers with gay men since the very establishment of the US Navy. It's no coincidence that San Francisco has significant connections to both the gay community and the Navy. Enough ramble. The bottom line...Autumn Sandeen rocks!