This day, September 19th, marks the last day, three years ago, of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Repeal of DADT, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, officially took effect on September 20th, 2011. As flags were lowered at Retreat ceremonies on United States military posts and warships around the world, the nearly 100 year old ban against gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members became a part of history. An injustice ended. America became more free.
This did not just happen. It happened because many people worked very hard for a very long time to create the change that made the guardians of America’s freedom the representatives of the liberty they serve to safeguard. American Veterans for Equal Rights was on the front line of this long engagement from the very start. We can all be very proud of that accomplishment. You created change. You made this happen.
The past few years have been amazing. We now have openly gay general officers serving in our military. The Department of Defense officially recognizes same-sex marriages and offers full benefits to the spouses of our brave warriors. Marriage equality is sweeping our nation, a social revolution that is quite unlikely to have happened without the repeal of DADT. Honored warriors, thank you for your hard work. You made this happen. This is your legacy.
There is still work to be done. The VA still does not offer full benefits to the legally married spouses of LGB service members. Transgender Americans still cannot serve in the military. Many states still do not recognize our same-gender marriages. LGB service members do not have the unit level access to EEO officers to give them immediate protection from harassment and threats from their fellow service members. Veterans who received less-than-honorable discharges for no other reason than their sexual orientation need to have those discharges upgraded so they can access the benefits they earned for their service. We have work to do.
As we near the beginning of our 25th year of service, please consider the accomplishments of this great organization and your role in making America a more free and just society. This year we said goodbye to one of our founders, Chuck Schoen. Chuck lived to see the repeal of DADT. Let’s continue his work, and broaden his legacy to continue the change he started.
Thank you to all the members of American Veterans for Equal Rights for your service to our nation and your commitment to making the United States military the true representatives of the freedom it exists to protect. I ask that you continue with us as we step forward into our next quarter century. American Veterans for Equal Rights remains the respected voice of LGBT military veterans in the United States. When Congress, the VA, the Commander-In-Chief, and other major government agencies come looking for answers to their questions about LGBT veterans, they come to AVER. Please keep that voice strong.
Happy Military Freedom Day. You did this. Carry on.
Danny Ingram, President Emeritus
American Veterans for Equal Rights