After her Thursday arrest, gay activist
Robin McGehee is calling on activists to apply greater pressure –
most likely including greater civil disobedience – on lawmakers to
pass two major gay rights bills that appear to be stalling out in
McGehee was the first activist to be
arrested Thursday afternoon outside the White House during a rally to
protest “don't ask, don't tell,” the 1993 law that bans gay
troops from serving openly.
Also arrested were Army Lt. Dan Choi,
one of the most visible opponents of the policy, and Capt. James E.
Pietrangelo. The men were arrested by Park Police after McGehee
helped the pair handcuff themselves to the White House fence.
All three activists broke away from an
earlier protest hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest gay rights advocate, that featured comedian Kathy
Griffin and HRC President Joe Solmonese, and led a crowd from Freedom
Plaza to the White House chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho don't ask,
don't tell has got to go.”
Choi, who said he wanted to deliver a
message to President Obama, told the crowd “We will not disappear”
before McGehee helped him handcuff himself to the fence.
Both men have been discharged under
“don't ask, don't tell.” Pietrangelo was dismissed under the
policy in 2004, while Choi is fighting his 2009 discharge.
Choi, 29, and Pietrangelo, 44, appeared
Friday in DC's Superior Court, where each pleaded not guilty to the
charge of failing to obey an officer. The men are scheduled to
return to court on April 26.
In a video message released Friday,
McGehee said the action took place because “we are tired of
“We're tired of empty promises and
continued excuses and we really want action,” she said.
McGehee said activists need to do more
than lobby lawmakers for passage of Massachusetts Representative
Barney Frank's Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that
would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation,
and repeal of the military's gay ban.
“We believe we need to do more than
lobbying, making phone calls, and giving money to people who are not
making true to the promises we were given,” she added.
McGehee first came to national
attention in 2008 after she organized a successful pro-gay marriage
rally in conservative Fresno, California. She continues her gay
advocacy with the group GetEqual.