with video: Ann Arbor resident Mara Boyd arrested in 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' protest at the White House
Pablo Martinez Monsivais | The Associated Press
Ann Arbor's Mara Boyd was one of six protestors arrested for chaining themselves to the White House gate Tuesday to protest the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for homosexual service members.
Boyd, a native Ann Arborite, was discharged from the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado-Boulder after revealing her homosexuality to a superior officer in September 2002. Boyd was then sent a bill for the schooling she'd gotten for free as an ROTC cadet, her family said.
"That turned her life upside down," said Boyd's brother, Evan. "She still graduated, but she was left with a pretty big tuition bill that she's still paying off."
Mara works retail these days to help pay that bill, and has been an outspoken critic of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy since her discharge.
Why did Boyd come out?
"A sense of integrity," she said in a 2004 interview with a journalist at her alma mater. "I had this problem: I had to look my cadets in the eye and lie to them. It was a real struggle, whether I was going to take on immense debt and lose my career, or live a life without integrity. I hesitate to call it a decision — was really my only choice."
Why was Boyd in the Nation's Capital?
She decided to take her protest to the streets after meeting a fellow DADT victim at an April 13 lecture at Eastern Michigan University.
Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic interpreter and Iraq War veteran, was discharged from the U.S. Army after a March 2009 appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show, during which he came out of the closet as a homosexual.
Choi has become one of the faces of the anti-DADT movement. He and Boyd became friends, and a week later Boyd was part of the group of six former service members arrested for chaining themselves to the White House gate.
The protest was staged by GetEQUAL, a gay-rights organization that believes President Barack Obama is dragging his feet on his promise to end the controversial policy.
The day before Tuesday's White House protest, GetEQUAL interrupted Obama's speech at a Los Angeles fundraiser for Democratic California senator Barbara Boxer. GetEQUAL said it will continue protesting DADT, with larger numbers and more in-your-face tactics each time, until a full repeal is achieved. Obama will give the commencement speech at the University of Michigan's graduation ceremony on May 1; no protests have been announced yet.
The Obama administration is studying how best to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military. In March, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued new guidelines for DADT that raise the burden of proof when servicemembers are accused of homosexuality. It will now take more than hearsay for a service member to be discharged.
Evan, Mara's brother, said she and the other protestors are being represented pro-bono by GetEQUAL.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense NetworkÂ said despite the new DADT guidelines, all 66,000-plus homosexuals in the U.S. could still be discharged if superiors caught wind of their sexual orientation.
Evan said the Boyds expect to hear from Mara sometime today, after she and the others are released from police custody. Boyd is expected to return to Ann Arbor on Friday.
James David Dickson can be reached at JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com.