American Veterans for Equal Rights
American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) is a U.S. non-profit organization which supports and advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It was founded by several lgbt veterans including St. Sgt. (Army Reserve-Rtd.) Miriam Ben-Shalom in 1990 as the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America, the oldest organization of LGBT veterans.
Ben-Shalom, a lesbian Army Reserve enlisted soldier who was discharged in 1975 by the military after it was revealed by a higher officer that she was lesbian, fought through the judicial system to retain her post. While initially successful, a higher federal Court of Appeals ultimately reversed the decision.
To help defend others in similar situations, she worked with other lgbt veterans to establish the GLBVA in 1990. By 1996, James Darby, a Chicago native who organized the Chicago chapter of GLBVA, became President of the organization, and was received in 1997 by White House Senior Adviser for Public Liaison Richard Socarides and by Pentagon officials. Under Darby's leadership, the "Lexington Declaration" called on U.S. president Bill Clinton to lift the ban on open service in the military by homosexuals.
On May 2, 2005, the GLBVA, under president Jim Donovan, changed its name to the American Veterans for Equal Rights. The organization was formally incorporated as a 501(c)19 organization under president Alan J. Rogue (died 2010). The current president is Danny Ingram, a former sergeant of the U.S. Army who was discharged immediately after DADT came into force.
The organization is chapter-based, and local chapters organize many of their own activities. For example, the Chicago chapter organized a ceremony to mark the end of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). With the city of Chicago, AVER sponsors an annual tribute to gay and lesbian veterans.
- OutServe Magazine: Steve Loomis, "A Difficult Fight Pays Off,", accessed February 12, 2012
- "Special Assistant to the President Meets with GLBVA". AVER. 16 May 1997.
- "GLBVA meet with Pentagon Officials". AVER. 16 May 1997.
- "Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America, Inc. Release "Lexington Declaration"". AVER. March 20, 1997.
- ABC News: Leah Hope, "Group celebrates end of 'don't ask, don't tell'," September 21, 2011, accessed February 21, 2012. See also Chicago Tribune: Ryan Haggerty, "Gay veteran who fought 'don't ask, don't tell' will re-enlist for military service," October 24, 2011, accessed February 21, 2012
- Chicago History Museum: Jessica Herczeg-Konecny, "Salute to LGBT Veterans," July 26, 2011, accessed February 21, 2012
- Official web site
- American Veterans for Equal Rights, National Capital Chapter: A Community Profile, MetroWeekly, February 17, 2005