News (USA)

Gay service members subpoena Obama in defense of DADT protest

Two openly gay U.S. Army National Guard soldiers who were arrested for handcuffing themselves to a White House fence have subpoenaed President Obama to defend them in court, citing they were following orders of their Commander-in-Chief’s to lobby him for gay rights.

Choi and Pietrangelo at a March 18 White House protest.
Photo credit: John Aravosis of

Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo II have been charged with two counts of failure to obey a lawful order after they were arrested on two separate occasions back on March 18 and April 20, 2010.

According to their attorneys:

The Defendants seek to use their trials to highlight the ongoing effects of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and policy of the U.S. Armed Forces toward gay and lesbian service members.

They seek to compel the testimony of President Barack Obama who has, on several occasions as President and Commander in Chief (and previously as a Senator and Presidential Candidate) called on the LGBT community to “pressure” him to change the DADT law and policy, thus allowing gay service members to serve their country openly and honorably.

[Full memorandum .pdf]

The defendants claim they were following the President’s orders regarding his support for public pressure to abolish the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military ban on openly gay service members.

In an October 2009 speech at a Human Rights Campaign event, Obama called upon gay rights to put pressure on him for the advancement of LGBT rights, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

From the President’s speech:

If we are honest with ourselves we’ll admit that there are too many who do not yet know in their lives or feel in their hearts the urgency of this struggle….

And that’s why it’s so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders — including me — and to make the case all across America.

The two servicemen are expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court on July 14 to face charges in the non-jury trial.

While it is unlikely the President will testify at the trial, attorney Ann Wilcox plans to use the President’s remarks as part of the defense.

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