For Equal Rights
By Denny Meyer
American Veterans for Equal Rights,
America’s first national organization of
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender armed
forces veterans, held its biennial convention in
the high desert splendor of Albuquerque New
Mexico. AVER is the oldest most continuously resilient
national LGBT veterans' service organization,
advocating for our rights and benefits since
1990. This convention was the best ever as
everyone present felt the palpable sense of
Pride of the accumulated rank, years served,
medals earned, and military accomplishments,
collectively, of all the lesbian, gay, bi, and
transgender veterans and active service members
in the room! Air Force Major General
Patricia Rose was the keynote speaker and with
her wife, Navy LT Julie Roth, ret., was an
inspiration to all of us who had served and were
serving. GEN Rose presented AVER's Leonard
Matlovich Medal to Colonel Margarethe
Cammermeyer, USA ret. Also present were
USA Colonel Pat Thompson, ret., and her wife;
AF Major Angelo Bonavita locally representing
OutServe, The executive director of OutServe,
and most importantly the room was filled with
LGBT retired enlisted service members, many of
them senior NCOs, and others who served only a
The youngest and oldest gay
military personnel and veterans shared their
pride in service, from an active duty Army
Specialist and his husband just starting a
military family career, to James Darby, who
served in the Navy in the 1950s, with his
husband Patrick Bova who were among the first to
become legally married in Illinois.
LTC Steve Loomis, US
Army, retired, was reelected as President. Chief
Julz Carey, US Coast Guard, retired, was
reelected as Vice President. Former Sergeant
Danny Ingram was reelected as Treasurer, and
Staff Sergeant, James Apedaile, US Army,
retired, was elected as Secretary.
AVER’s five national
regions elected Regional Vice Presidents: Former
Sergeant First Class Denny Meyer in Region 1
–Northeastern US, Staff Sergeant, James
Apedaile US Army, retired, in Region II
–Southern US, former Petty Officer James Darby
in Region III –Midwestern US, MAJ Dorothy
Seaton, USA, retired, Region IV –Southwestern
US, and CPO Nick Jackman, USCG, retired, in
Region V –Western US and HI. Denny Meyer was
reappointed as national Public Affairs and
Veterans Affairs Officer; Penn Baker remains
national Transgender Veterans Liaison; and
Patrick Bova remains as national Archivist.
In addition to the serious
business of the convention electing officers and
discussing the Mission, Vision and Goals of
AVER, there was the serious business of visiting
AVER Albuquerque's new LGBT Veteran's monument
in the local traditional veterans memorial park
where a ceremony was held memorializing our
heroes including LT Harvey Milk, PFC Barry
Winchell and others, with TAPS being played live
by former AVER national president Danny Ingram.
Photos by Denny Meyer, Photo Captions by Danny Ingram:
Participants at AVER's 2016 25th anniversary convention placed a wreath
and performed taps at the
New Mexico LGBT Inclusive Memorial in
Albuquerque’s Veterans Memorial Park. The
ceremony also included a wreath placing at the
nearby Women’s Memorial where AVER Vice
President Julz Carey
was recognized as one of the first women to
serve aboard a United States military warship.
New bricks donated by LGBT vets and other
sponsors from across the country were dedicated
AVER National President LTC Steve Loomis and
members of Albuquerque’s host Bataan Chapter.
AVER National President Steve Loomis presents a
Life Membership Award to long-time AVER members Jim Darby and Patrick Bova, the
only participants to have attended
every National Convention since the inception of
the organization 25 years ago.
Jim and Pat were named plaintiffs in the
successful Illinois same-sex marriage
suit Darby v. Orr. Jim and Pat became one of
the first same-sex couples to marry in
Illinois and were invited to introduce President
Barack Obama at the LGBT
Pride event at the White House last year.
Panel discussion featuring local Chapter Presidents from around the
The convention included an excursion to
nearby Santa Fe where participants visited the
Mexico National Guard museum and were provided a
lecture on the history of the Guard by
retired Major General Fox, which included
details of the infamous Bataan
Death March for World War II.
Convention participants gather on the old square
in Santa Fe.
Santa Fe’s openly gay mayor Javier
Gonzales greeted convention participants and
read a City of Santa Fe resolution declaring
Friday, April 22, 2016 as American Veterans
for Equal Rights Day in Santa Fe.
Air Force Major Angelo Bonavita
of nearby Kirtland AFB and President of the Kirtland
Chapter of OUTSERVE/SLDN delivers a presentation on the
50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and
recognizes the Vietnam War veterans present
at the convention.
AVER Life Member Jim Darby presents a
history of the LGBT military veterans
movement and our important role in bringing about
changes for our community.
Colonel Patsy Thompson and her wife Barbara
Brass speak as part of a presentation on the
upcoming film Surviving the Silence, the
story of their 30 year hidden relationship
during the years when LGBT service members could not serve
openly in the US military. Colonel Thompson was the
presiding officer in the military tribunal that removed
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer from service following
her disclosure that she is lesbian.
2016 Keynote speaker USAF Major General Patricia Rose, the highest ranking
out officer in the United States military. General Rose
attended the convention with her wife, Lt. Julie Roth,
US Navy, retired.
anniversary convention included a panel that featured
active duty US Army Specialist Jesse Dennis, MG Patricia
Rose, and Life Members Jim Darby and Eric Alva, speaking
on the continuing challenges faced by LGBT service
members and veterans. Specialist Dennis, who attended
the convention with his husband Zach Davis, provided a
unique perspective on the life of a same-sex military
couple on an active duty base and the unique challenges
faced by the spouses of openly LGBT service members.
AVER National President Emeritus Danny
Ingram addresses questions to Jim Darby on
the importance of his veteran status in
creating change for the national LGBT struggle for equality.
Very special guest Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer discusses her discharge
and the changes that her fight to serve brought to the
military, along with Barbara Brass and Colonel Patsy
Thompson, the presiding officer in her military trial.