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AVER Consults with Senate Democratic
Steering and Outreach Committee
by
Steve Loomis, LTC, EN, U.S. Army (Ret.)
National President

American Veterans for Equal Rights


American Veterans for Equal Rights has again provided input on legislative issues important to LGBT Veterans to members of the United States Senate.  On September 10, 2014, I was invited to represent AVER in a meeting with the US Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to identify the current legislative issues important to the LGBT veterans community.  AVER's national presence once again insured us a voice at the table for LGBT veterans.

AVER’s most important tasks are Outreach to our veterans, outreach almost to daily to Congress, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, academia, media and other LGBT veteran groups.  We must regularly place our goals and concerns before our local and national agencies.  This is critical to support our veterans.  It is what Danny Ingram as our past President, and Denny Meyer as our public affairs officer have done for many years and what I have now undertaken on your behalf.

In this instance, we met in the Mansfield Room of the Capitol with fifteen Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed; Senator Tammy Baldwin, a military veteran; Senator Coons of DE; Senator Udall of Colorado; and Senator Corey Booker of NJ, among others.  While AVER was the only veterans' group present, many other LGBT groups were represented including American Military Partner Association and Human Rights Campaign.
 


Steve Loomis, National President of American Veterans for Equal Rights
explains LGBT veterans critical legislative issues to the Senate
Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee on Capitol Hill.

Each group identified issues important to the LGBT community nationwide.  As President of AVER, our country's first LGBT veterans group, I indicated our issues came from our members through our national board of directors.  The legislative issues important to us as LGBT veterans, were:


 -  1.  That military service must be open to transgender service members by administrative or legislative changes.

 

 -  2.  It is essential to protect our hard won right, won when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed, for all patriotic American volunteers to be allowed to serve in our nation’s armed forces regardless of sexual orientation.

 

 -  3.  Ensure that the Veterans Administration shall consistently serve all veterans equally, with relevant and competent treatment of LGBT veterans.

 

 -  4.  Since Equal Employment Opportunity protections do not currently cover LGBT military, such protections must be extended as a protected class to LGBT personnel serving in Department of Defense.  This will provide LGBT service members access to the EEO officer inside the unit level.  Otherwise our service members must rely for protection from threat or harm on the commander who may be the source of such oppression.  The VA should then follow the lead of the DOD. 

Then issues important to us as members of the larger veterans community were presented.  They are:


 -  1.  Continue effective efforts to improve, oversee and adequately fund the Veterans Administration medical service for all veterans.

 

 -  2.  Ensure Veterans Administration Medical support to our transgender veterans fully complies with the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5.

 

 -  3.  Reform the rules on Military Sexual Assault as it applies to both men and women, gay and straight.  While we should not take away the commander's review of convictions, their authority to overturn those convictions needs to be limited.

Finally, as citizens serving our country our legislative issues are;


 -  1.  Reversing the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, in order to protect the voice of our citizens,

 

 -  2.  Pass the Federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) with the same religious exemption of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act.  This critical LGBT protection has been delayed in Congress for over a decade.

 

 -  3.  Finally, improved administrative relief for undocumented immigrants.  Over 267,000 immigrants identify as LGBT, and many are fleeing severe and deadly persecution, or seeking unification with their families.

These issues are important and favorable resolution of these issues will go a long way toward equal protection for LGBT Americans, protections that we as LGBT veterans served our country for and deserve along with all those who have gone in harm's way for our country. 

After the meeting adjourned, Senators Booker and Coons both personally approached me and asked for additional information to be provided to their staff on these issues.  We will be sending letters with this information to each of the senators present and to my own New Mexico congressional delegation.  These are issues important to each of us as citizens, veterans and LGBT veterans and we should also reach out to all our members of Congress through our chapters and advocate for our issues.  It is that personal contact from their constituents in their local states that means the most and will sway them to our issues.

With the approach of AVER's 25th Anniversary, our continued success depends very much on the support of each one of our members.  Your financial support gives us the resources to provide this type of vital input at the highest levels, and your membership allows us to speak on your behalf as the honored voices of LGBT US military veterans, a voice that is necessary to bring change not only to our veterans but our active duty service members as well.  AVER's success depends very much on our continued outreach not only to members but to our local leaders through our chapters and to our national leaders through your National Board.  Working together we can continue to achieve progress in support of our LGBT veterans, service members, and their families.
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Steve Loomis is the National President of American Veterans for Equal Rights, the first LGBT veterans organization.  A graduate of the University of New Mexico, he served as a decorated infantry officer in Vietnam and later as a combat engineer officer.

For AVER Donations and membership go to:  http://aver.us/be-involved/sponsorship

2014 GayMilitarySignal