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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 05
Dan Choi ordered to pay the Army
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Dan Choi ordered to pay the Army

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Despite the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), former Army Lt. Dan Choi remains a target of the armed services. Under DADT, not only does an openly Gay servicemember get kicked out of the military, but he or she may have to repay the Defense Department for any unfinished service - and according to the Army, this is the case with Choi.

Choi, who came out as Gay on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show in 2009, was an outspoken advocate for the repeal of DADT, which passed Congress late last year but remains in effect until a lengthy certification process is completed.

Late last month, Choi says the Defense Department sent him a letter - or a bill, as it were - saying he owed the U.S. government $2,500 for the 'unearned portion of [his] enlistment or reenlistment bonus.'

According to the letter, if Choi does not pay the debt within 30 days, the Department could possibly refer his account to a private collection agency, follow up with the Justice Department for legal action, and report the delinquency to credit bureaus.

As one would expect from the fiery advocate for Gay equality, Choi says he has no intention of repaying one cent to the Department. Instead, Choi wrote President Obama a letter explaining, 'By flagrantly and repeatedly violating an immoral law, I have flagrantly and repeatedly saluted the honor of America's promise. At West Point, when we recited the Cadet Prayer, we reminded ourselves 'always to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.' It would be easier to pay the $2,500 bill and be swiftly done with this diseased chapter of my life, where I sinfully deceived and tolerated self-hatred under DADT. Many thousands have wrestled with their responsibilities and expedient solutions when confronted with issues of this magnitude. I understand you also wrestle with issues of our equality. But I choose to cease wrestling, to cease the excuses, to cease the philosophical grandstanding and ethical gymnastics of political expediency in the face of moral duty. My obligations to take a stand, knowing all the continued consequences of my violation, are clear. I refuse to pay your claim.'

The military maintains that Choi cannot get out of paying the bill because when he came out as Gay in 2009, DADT was the law of the land.

The $2,500 could be deducted from any tax refund Choi may receive. When servicemembers have an outstanding debt to the federal government and are serving at the time, the debts are often taken right out of their paychecks.

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