The gay activist and former Army lieutenant who has been a vocal critic of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy told Gay City News that he has not received any notice that his discharge under that policy was finalized on June 29.
“As far as I know, I haven’t been notified of my discharge except by the Gay City News,” Choi said on July 21. “Obviously, I expected it to happen.”
Speaking by phone from Las Vegas a few hours after being released from jail for the arrests that he and seven other members of the activist group GetEqual faced as the result of blocking traffic during a protest, Choi said he learned his discharge was final when Gay City News reported it on July 20.
Gay City News sent Choi an email on July 19 asking why he had not disclosed his discharge or, if he had, when he had done so. Choi responded to that email on July 21 after he was asked in a phone message follow-up to the conversation he had with the newspaper that day whether he had received it.
In that email, the newspaper also asked why Choi participated in political activities in uniform, which may violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and why he wore his uniform to a July 14 court appearance in the nation’s capital. It is a violation of federal law for a person who is not in the military to wear a military uniform.
In a series of email exchanges and phone conversations beginning on July 14, Lieutenant Colonel Paul A. Fanning, the state public affairs officer for the New York National Guard, told Gay City News that Choi’s discharge was effective as of June 29. Choi was informed of his discharge with multiple phone messages and by registered mail for which the unit has a receipt, Fanning said.
“A lot of phone call messages, recorded messages, were left with him,” he said in a July 21 phone message to Gay City News. “All possible efforts were made to make him aware of his situation. We made every effort to contact him... to inform him of the Army decision.”
Choi said he had received none of them.
“I have not received any such correspondence, I have not been discharged as far as I know,” Choi said. “As far as I know, I am still serving.”
On July 12, Choi appeared in uniform on MSNBC and identified himself as “openly serving,” before discussing the contribution that honesty makes to morale in the military.
“I’m openly serving as well as so many thousands of gay soldiers,” Choi said on the cable news channel. “There’s always a positive impact when people are honest about themselves.”
When the July 12 segment began, the moderator identified him as currently serving, and Choi made no comment on that. The segment concerned a survey that the Pentagon distributed to 400,000 servicemembers to assess their views on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Choi has been fighting for repeal since he came out publicly in 2009. During the July 12 appearance, Choi stressed the importance of honesty and integrity in the military.
“When I came out in my unit, it was filled with soldiers who wanted to just tell me that they respected me and all the other gay soldiers that much more because they put the truth, honesty, and integrity above their rank, their career, their paycheck,” he said. “Integrity is the foundation of unit cohesion, and honesty is what makes the unit stronger.”
At the close of the segment, the moderator thanked him for his service, and Choi said, “Thank you, it’s a pleasure to serve.”
Speaking from Las Vegas, Choi said of his discharge, “Even if it’s true, this fight is not over.