Lt. Dan Choi

Openly gay US soldiers and activists Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo have subpoenaed President Obama in their civil disobedience trial.

The men were arrested and charged after refusing to unchain themselves from the White House fence in two demonstrations in March and April against the ban on gay and lesbian personnel in the US military.

The charges of “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order” are relatively minor, but Choi and Pietrangelo’s lawyers say that they intend to use the trial “to highlight the ongoing effects of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law and policy of the US Armed Forces toward gay and lesbian service members”.

While Obama has repeatedly committed his administration to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” many LGBT activist, including Choi and Pietrangelo, have been frustrated by the slow progress in changing the law.

Their lawyers claim that because the President had called for an end to the law the men were ultimately simply following his orders.

They say: “the subpoena of the President is necessary for the defense to prove that Defendants were following and obeying lawful orders or directives by their President and Commander in Chief, and were therefore under an obligation and authority to act as they did in order to pressure him – in a non-violent, visible way – on this important public issue.”

Legal commentators suggest that the men’s bid to see Obama in court to testify in their trial is unlikely to succeed. If found guilty, Choi and Pietrangelo face a fine ranging from $100 to $1000 with no jail time.

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