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|Nonprofit Spotlight: American Veterans for Equal Rights|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|May 13, 2011 00:00|
Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been officially repealed with President Barack Obama’s signature, when the repeal will actually be implemented is still not determined.
For more than 20 years, American Veterans for Equal Rights has sought fairness for LGBT people in the military and to make sure LGBT veterans have access to benefits, says Danny Ingram of Decatur. Ingram is the former Georgia AVER chapter president and now serves as the national president for the nonprofit organization.
Each year the Georgia AVER chapter holds a Taps service at Piedmont Park on Memorial Day.
“The national organization started about 21 years ago in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia chapter was formed about eight years by Jeff Cleghorn, who is now a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund,” Ingram says.
The organization is a 501(c)19, which means the “vast majority” of members must be veterans, Ingram explains. There are chapters in 16 states.
“We work to make sure LGBT vets get their benefits from the Veterans Administration and are also involved in ensuring equality for LGB service members with the lifting of the ban,” Ingram says. “Then we will work for the inclusion of transgender service members who are not included in the DADT repeal.”
Ingram witnessed Obama’s signing of the DADT repeal on Dec. 22, 2010, after being invited by the White House to the historic moment as president of AVER.
The Georgia chapter of AVER also is the honorary color guard for the annual Atlanta Pride parade and has marched in the past several years of the city’s Veteran’s Day Parade in November.
Organizers of the Atlanta Veteran’s Day Parade have not allowed AVER to march with a rainbow flag because they considered it a “symbol of protest,” Ingram says.
“It will be interesting to see what they do this year because [with the repeal of DADT] it is no longer a symbol of protest,” he notes. “We do plan on carrying it this year.”
Ingram, who was discharged from the Army in 1994 about a year after DADT was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, said he and others volunteer for AVER because they believe there should be equality for all soldiers and people.
“The mission of the military is to defend the constitution. It is wrong to have policies in place that are clearly unconstitutional,” Ingram says.
Top photo: Danny Ingram at last year’s Memorial Day Taps service honoring LGBT vets. (by Laura Douglas-Brown)
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