Lt. Dan Choi, activists plead not guilty

Sat. March 20, 2010 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

lt. dan choi and capt. james e. pietrangelo protest dadt

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Washington, DC - Two gay service members arrested Thursday outside the White House pleaded not guilty in DC Superior Court Friday.

Army Lt. Dan Choi, one of the most visible opponents of "don't ask, don't tell," along with Capt. James E. Pietrangelo were arrested by Park Police after the men handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in protest of the policy which bans gay and lesbian service members from revealing their sexual orientation at the risk of being fired.

Choi, 29, was discharged from the Army under the policy last year after he announced he was gay on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He is currently appealing the Army's decision.

Pietrangelo, 44, of Sandusky, Ohio, was discharged in 2004.

Speaking at a DC event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate, Choi called on the crowd to join him in delivering a message to the president. "Our fight is not here at Freedom Plaza, it is at the White House," he said.

Arresting officers say the two men were given three warnings to free themselves from the fence. When the men refused, they were hauled away to jail and charged with failure to obey an officer in DC's criminal court.

An online Washington Post poll conducted on Friday found that the majority (53%) of readers agreed that the men should serve nominal jail time for their actions.

President Obama has called for repeal of the policy that bans gay troops from revealing their sexual orientation. Both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that would repeal the 1993 law.

Opponents of repeal say the law is needed to keep good order and discipline among the ranks. A near universal majority of Americans say the policy is discriminatory and a majority say it should be scrapped.

The men are scheduled to return to court on April 26, 2010.

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