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Rachel Maddow interviews Dan Choi about his discharge

Just watch it; the President and Congress need to see what they have done with their inaction, foot-dragging and the Pentagon’s bogus discredited survey of service members. Shameful.

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MADDOW: It started here on this show. And now, it doesn`t end here, but it does take a very sharp turn. Sixteen months ago, West Point graduate, Arab linguist, Iraq veteran, 1st Lt. Dan Choi made this very dramatic news right here on our air.


1ST LT. DAN CHOI, UNITED STATES ARMY: I am an infantry platoon leader in the New York Army National Guard. And by saying three words to you today, I am gay, those three words are a violation of Title 10 of the U.S.


MADDOW: Today, nearly a year and a half after that announcement, Lt. Dan Choi has been fired from the U.S. Military. Quote, “Based on the approved board findings that 1st Lt. Choi did publicly admit on more than one occasion in person and through the media that he is a homosexual, such conduct being in violation of 10 U.S. Code Sections 654, Subsection B-2, I direct 1st Lt. Choi be discharged from the New York National Army National Guard with an honorable characterization of service.” Ironically, the adjutant general signing off from Lt. Choi`s discharge is Brig. Gen. Patrick Murphy – a coincidence. No relation to another Patrick Murphy, also an Iraq veteran, now, a congressman, who bas led the way in Washington for the repeal of the “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” policy, a policy that has now claimed Dan Choi`s career. Lt. Dan Choi joins us now. Dan, thank you very much for joining us. It`s a real honor to have you back on the show.

CHOI: Great to be with you. I hope the audio doesn`t cut out this

MADDOW: Yes like it did that very dramatic first night. Dan –

CHOI: We can`t blame the government because there`s no conspiracy this time, right?

MADDOW: Right –

CHOI: There`s no reason why they`d cut me off.

MADDOW: At this point – yes. At this point – at this point, you are a civilian. I mean, this must be a very hard day for you, Dan. How are you doing?

CHOI: It`s the first time I`m a civilian since I was 18 years old. It`s, you know, as much as you can prepare for this kind of consequence. And I knew exactly what I was getting into when I appeared on your show the very first time. As much as you build up your armor and get ready for those words, saying that “you`re fired,” you can`t deal with that pain and the emotion. I mean, I think back on my entire time in the military, from the days that I was at West Point to getting ready for deployment, infantry training and even the activism. All of it comes up and it`s a big emotional roller coaster. It`s painful and it hurts. I mean, right now, my career is over, but I know there are still hundreds of other people that are going to be fired and go through the same thing throughout this year.

MADDOW: When you look back on these 16 months after coming out, all the activism you`ve engaged in, getting arrested, protesting this policy, serving with your unit while being openly gay, do you feel regret? Do you wish you had stayed in the closet longer and waiting for the policy to end?

CHOI: Absolutely not. Being in the closet is a poison. It`s a deadly toxic disease that people don`t even realize how difficult that is until they`re finally out. There are a lot of times when I look back at my time in service and told myself, “Why didn`t I come out?” or “Why did I I mean, I knew I was gay. I didn`t want to come out to my parents. My dad is a minister. He`s affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. He didn`t want to know that his son, who went to West Point and went to Iraq, is an infantry man is also gay. He just wouldn`t know how to deal with that. There are so many people who have “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” in their own hearts and in their own homes. And they deal with that same kind of enforced shame and that kind of enforced hatred of themselves. And it really tears away at the very fabric of who they are.

MADDOW: Do you think, Dan, that your civil disobedience efforts, getting arrested over the course of the last year and a half, do you think that activism contributed to you being discharged now? Do you think that was part of it?

CHOI: Well, it would be very difficult for me to say that since the charges were dropped at the very last minute by the federal government and by the D.C. government for whatever reason. A lot of people have seen that actions, not only in achieving LGBT rights, gay and transgender rights, is effective but it`s been effective. Throughout our entire history from the time of the Boston Tea Party and throughout American Revolution, we`ve seen military officers get on up and act up because they know that the meaning of service and the meaning of our country is not wrapped up in a sentiment or an emotion or an argument about what the uniform signifies. That uniform that I put on, that uniform I`ve worn since the very first days at West Point, that stands for fighting from freedom and justice. And if there is no fight for freedom and justice, then nobody deserves to wear that uniform.

MADDOW: Dan, if the policy is repealed and sources do say it could happen in the spring, in less than a year, do you think you would sign up again? Do you know what`s next for you?

CHOI: Well, I don`t base a lot of my timelines or I don`t think anybody should base their actions on a political guesstimate. I think that if we were to do that, then we wouldn`t be where we`re at today. But I know for sure that if the law is repealed, and President Obama finally takes action and we can go back, of course, in a heart beat. There`s nothing that I should be afraid of. I`ve been serving openly in my infantry unit. And there`s been nothing but positive impact. There`s no reason for anybody to be afraid. There`s no need for a survey. There`s no need for a poll. There`s no need for people to put up shower curtains because they`re afraid of what might happen. I`ve been serving for 17 months quite openly. And I`ve seen nothing but positive impact when you tell people around you, people who you work with the truth about who you are. There`s nothing but an increase in unit cohesion, in team work, in trust. Honesty is the fabric, the foundation of all of that.

MADDOW: Lt. Dan Choi, I know you had a million choices of who to talk to on TV tonight. And I want to thank you for choosing to be with us here. And as always, thank you for your service.

CHOI: Rachel, we wouldn`t be here with “Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell” if it wasn`t for people like you who stick to the facts and tell them unashamedly. So I have you to thank and I believe all of America owes you a debt of gratitude. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: You`re way too kind. Thanks, Dan. Good luck to you, man. Stay in touch, OK?

CHOI: I will.

Also, surf over to read Joe Sudbay’s interview w/Dan, both are here at Netroots Nation.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding