Gay Activists ‘Holler’, Obama Talks Back, Dan Choi Gets the Handcuffs

President Obama is not impressed with the gay rights protesters who repeatedly interrupted his speech last night at a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer, as seen in this video:

(You can see a shorter version of the speech over at Mediaite.) Obama said:

“When you’ve got an ally like Barbara Boxer and you’ve got an ally like me who are standing for the same thing, then you don’t know exactly why you have to holler because we already hear you,” Obama said to the protesters. “It would make more sense to holler that at the people who oppose it.”

In addition to that, Dan Choi consequentially  and five other vets chained themselves to the White House fence, one month after Choi and his comrade were arrested for a similar DADT protest. These were a few of the feelings Dan Choi had last night while he was chained to the White House fence (and the GetEQUAL protesters stormed Obama’s speech in Los Angeles) (no word yet on how he was able to tweet while handcuffed to a fence– kids these days!):

Dan Choi twitter
But not everyone is impressed with the protesters. We follow HuffPo contributor Ryan Davis on Twitter, and his feelings about the incident are quite the opposite of Dan’s:

Is it our duty to put pressure on the president until he follows through on his promise and repeals Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Or are we failing to understand difference between being heard and passing legislation?

We gays/lesbians/bis/queermos have always had this idea that the way we present ourselves is an important factor in gaining equality — the more people who know us personally and are familiar with us, the more ground we gain. The more we’re able to convince people that our families are like theirs, the easier it will be to get legal validation.

Where do the actions of these protesters fit? How are they impacting our public image? Are they showing America that we won’t put up with being sidelined, or are they setting us backward by playing into negative stereotypes?

The Air Force reversed a decision it made to not expel Lt. Robin R. Chaurasiya under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, even though she admitted to being a lesbian. The ruling originally said Chaurasiya shouldn’t be discharged because she was trying to use the policy to get out of the armed forces. But after she spoke out against DADT and told her story, the Air Force wants to discharge her. (@latimes)

An Arkansas judge has overturned the state’s ban on adoption by gay or unmarried people. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said in a two-page ruling that people in “non-marital relationships” are forced to choose between becoming an adoptive parent and sustaining that relationship. (@ap)

Johnny Weir said cute things at an Equality California event. His remarks could be construed to be about just the gay community, but he might also be talking about liberals.

Two men are being held in the death of Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, an Indian professor who was originally thought to have killed himself after he was caught on tape having sex with another man. Siras, who hailed from Maharashtra and taught Marathi, was placed under suspension by AMU Vice Chancellor P K Abdul Aziz on charges of homosexuality at his house inside the campus after a sting operation by a television channel which exposed him having sexual relations with a rickshaw puller. (@ndtv)

Gays might have a hard time finding a place to get divorced, says the Associated Press. Gay and lesbian couples who turn to the courts when they break up are getting mixed results across the nation. A Pennsylvania judge last month refused to divorce two women who married in Massachusetts, while New York grants such divorces even though the state doesn’t allow same-sex marriage. A Texas judge recently allowed a gay couple to get divorced, but the Texas attorney general is appealing that ruling. The new hearing is scheduled for tomorrow. (@ap)

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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

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  1. I feel like (and maybe I watch too much West Wing) but you shouldn’t interrupt the President. But that said, I feel like i would have been totally okay if had they just interrupted him once(?). I mean, he addressed them, spoke to the point, and then moved on. But then, you know, the second time I was just reminded of the “USA” chants that rang out when McCain was running for president. Which makes me a little queasy. I feel really torn. I appreciate what they were trying to do, and I hope they made an impression. But I think there might be other (classier?) ways.

    • I agree. “Hanoi Choi” did much better on the Maddow interview. This just seems…childish.

  2. I actually shed a tear of joy when I read that Act 1 was overturned. It was such a disgrace and would have kept families apart and children away from loving homes. I’ve worked with kids in the system and it is terrible. It kills me that a child could be kept from a safe, loving home because people are so goddamn afraid that a gay couple might raise them. THIS is what the justice system is for.

  3. I was there today at the White House. I took part in the crowd chanting. As a historian I think that one must understand that, like Truman and civil rights, Obama wishes gay rights would just go away because they are controversial and divisive due to political extremes and ideologies. When a president is faced with a controversial issue usually he appoints a committee to study it. Therefore, the president remains moderate and appears as if he has taken significant actions. Most controversial issues have been decided by the Supreme Court (ie: Roe v. Wade aand Brown v. Board of Education), but I hope this will not happen with gay rights because the court has a 5 to 4 conservative majority. The president certainly cannot pass legislation but he can issue an executive order stopping the removal of Gays and Lesbians from military service until congress has passed legislation regarding DADT. Also, Obama can push for it with his newly gained political capital after health-care reform.
    I am not necessarily supporting the heckling, but rather the actions today at the white house. I think action needs to be taken. WE cannot leave it up to the HRC and play a passive role. We must make it clear that we are not second-class citizens. I am surprised that Obama would endorse “separate but equal” methods in dealing with LGBT rights.
    I must say these events certainly do call attention to the issue at hand and force Obama to not ignore it any longer. There certianly is something to be said for media attention/coverage.

  4. I’m all about fighting and shouting to make your voice heard, but I’m also all about theatre. In theatre, when you teach acting, one of the big lessons you teach is about tactics. If your acting partner has the cookie and you yell at them and they tell you that they’re already fighting for your rights to have cookies, yell at someone else, then you have to try a new tactic to get that damned cookie. Apparently, yelling at Obama at a dinner will not get us a cookie. We need to try something else.

  5. it’s like obama was talking to children for a little bit.

    i’m always really conflicted when it comes to methods of achieving goals like repealing dadt. on one hand you want to make your voice heard and push boundaries because change won’t happen if everyone sits back and waits. or will it? would dadt be repealed even if dan choi didn’t handcuff himself to the white house gates? i don’t know how to feel.

  6. America sees a small group of protesters repeatedly chaining themselves to the White House, trying to get attention. Why are they doing it? No one cares because they see the action and not the cause for it. It’s embarrassing and puts unneeded pressure on a reluctant ally on an already divisive and politically complex issue. Why isn’t Lt. Choi in New York and the National Guard armory specifically, fighting for his job instead? I think more people would be able to relate to that and offer support.

    • The last I heard, LT. Choi actually has not been discharged. I believe he was scheduled to be heading out to Iraq or Afghanistan soon. I don’t think it’s embarrassing. It’s just frustrating. The entire thing is.

      • I should have clarified by saying it’s embarrassing for President Obama. He’s trying his hardest within the (self-imposed) constraints he sees on DADT to get it repealed. Yes, Obama has the power to overturn it with the stroke of a pen but by now it’s apparent he’s not going to take the political risk to do so when so much else is at stake with the country – no offense to the LGBT community. It’s regrettable but understandable and if there is a reasonable chance that Congress will take it up and repeal it, he’s going to opt for that route instead. Intellectually, Obama’s with us (if you’ll permit me to use “us”) but despite what he has in the past, he wants to be a two-term President and sees this as a liability, which is debatable in my opinion. Some see this as a criticism, I see it as his stubborn desire to be pragmatic and bipartisan.

        And I didn’t mean to make it sound like I was taking a swipe at Lt. Choi. How he’s served our country in war and how he came out on national television with full knowledge of the consequences was very brave. I guess I was venting my frustration and belief that his noble activism shouldn’t be directed at President Obama. I think it would be better served on the public relations front, showing people how damaging DADT really is. If he really wants to do something in the political arena, lobby Congress, run for Congress, mobilize other like-minded individuals to do the same, etc. Trying to influence Obama with such tactics seems counterproductive if we are to take the President at his word that he is fighting for the same resolution, albeit by superficially puzzling and pain-stakingly slow means. That said, if you rather stick with civil disobedience, do something that makes a little more sense for what you’re fighting for. No one is fighting for the right to chain oneself to the White House. Honestly, I can’t think of any suggestions of the top of my head but I don’t necessarily think all publicity is good publicity either.

        • With all due respect, I’m sick of being put on the back burner, and I know that I’m hardly the only one. I understand that the political climate is volatile… but when ISN’T it volatile? And who’s to say that once he is elected to a second term, he drops us again because he doesn’t have to worry about our checkbooks?

          We saw this kind of behavior with Clinton, too. DOMA, anyone?

          It seems to me like every. damn. time there is SOME reason that GLBT rights get pushed back. Global financial crisis? Health care reform? These are important issues, sure, but it’s just friggin tedious at this point.

          Sorry to unload on you, but this bothers me. A lot.

          • Thanks for the comment. I often feel like I’m the least informed person on here and find myself reluctant to say much at times but I do not at all mind being challenged. So no apologies necessary. I’m on the outside looking in and as much as I am for equal rights for all, I don’t know how it feels to be gay in America. I would be lying if I even said I understand your frustration because it’s probably ten times worse than I imagine. Rationalizing President Obama’s politics and the politicizing of this issue in general I’m sure is equally maddening. I may be naive but all I’m saying is give Obama himself a chance. I’m holding him to his promises as well. If he hasn’t done anything on DADT in his first term (or if that is all he does in his first term), then I’m with you all the way.

      • Well, he was removed from active duty, and later he joined the NY guard. He graduated West Point in 2004…so he should be a senior Captain at this point – so I think he took a demotion when he joined the guard. (that’s not because of his orientation, that’s fairly common when you leave the big army and go to the guard or reserves)

  7. I think overall in fights for equality, we need all kinds of actions and activists.

    Think of ACT UP! in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They were loud, direct action activists. They certainly didn’t represent all of the activism for AIDS awareness, funding, etc, but they helped create a media climate where AIDS activism was taken seriously, was heard, was paid attention to.

    The difference in this case is that there already is a sizeable amount of DADT coverage. I think the question now isn’t whether direct action is the right course, but how to narrowly tailor direct action to the most effective place.

    I will add, as a liberal living in California, it seems especially bizarre to heckle Sen. Boxer at a fundraiser. She’s one of the biggest advocates (not just a supporter) of women’s and queer rights in the senate, and the senate race is gonna be tight this Nov in CA. I think the President is more fair game, since he himself as an individual can affect policy (like he just did, with hospital visitation rights, and like can do with DADT), but the Senate is a numbers game. We need to ensure that as queers and women we have people fighting for us in the Senate, where there are so many other voices trying to oppress us.

    In conclusion, #TeamBarbaraBoxer

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