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October 25, 2014

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Military gay rights activist gives his West Point ring to Reid

Choi: Ring represents promise Reid made to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

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Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Gay rights activist Dan Choi attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010, related to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Choi, who is a West Point alumni, was a member of the New York National Guard.

Netroots Nation convention

Sen. Harry Reid answers questions during the Netroots Nation convention Saturday at the Rio. Reid faces Republican and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle this November in his bid to keep representing Nevada. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Former Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran and leading activist for military gay rights, gave his West Point ring to Sen. Harry Reid today during an emotional meeting at The Rio.

As Reid delivered a keynote address to Netroots Nation, a gathering of politically progressive bloggers and activists, Choi passed his blue-stoned West Point ring up to the senator.

Choi, who has lobbied for years for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mandate, found out Thursday he was being honorably discharged from the Army National Guard because he is gay. His dismissal takes effect Thursday.

"He earned this ring," Reid said to the crowd of about 2,000 bloggers watching the exchange. Reid tried to return the ring to Choi, but Choi refused it.

Instead, Choi jumped to his feet to salute Reid.

"When the bill is signed, I will return it to him," Reid promised, after hugging Choi.

Choi said he decided to give Reid his ring last night.

"I was thinking about what my life is about," Choi explained. "I felt I didn't have anything. My career went away. My memories are tarnished, stripped away. I felt I had nothing, but I had my ring and I had promises."

Choi first met Reid last year backstage at a political event at Paris Hotel and Casino. Reid promised then he would repeal Don't Ask, Don't tell by the end of the year. That didn't happen.

Choi said his ring now represents a new promise.

"It's a promise that I'm going to hold him accountable to keep his promise," Choi said. "No one can do it any more than he can. He's the most powerful senator."

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