American Veterans For Equal Rights New York

news update


New York: March 22, 2005

After more than 10 months of political activism, the NY chapter of AVER had the New York City Council consider a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue policy which essentially bans homosexuals from serving in Americaís armed forces. The City Councilís Committee on State and Federal Legislation heard testimony from nine advocates for the resolution urging the repeal of the ban on gays in the military.

Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York spoke about the current Congressional Bill (HR 1059), of which he is a co-sponsor, to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military; he stated that the law establishing the ban has been a "colossal mistake."

AVER-NY President Denny Meyer testified that, "Our national policy of promoting homophobia within our armed forces has created an atmosphere of fear and distrust that is destructive to unit cohesion; the time has come for the pointless policy of ideological discrimination embodied in the ĎDonít Ask, Donít Tellí policy to come to an end so that all American patriotic volunteers may serve our nation in pride." He testified that, as the son of Holocaust refugees who fled Nazi Germany, he volunteered to join Americaís armed forces in 1968, despite being gay, because he had been reared to believe deeply in defending American freedom. More than a decade later, as a Sergeant First Class, he left the service, "so that I could live freely as a Gay American. In addition to the 10,000 discharged under the policy, thousands such as myself left without a word; the loss of training, skills, and leadership is incalculable," said Meyer.

Testifying, left to right: Denny Meyer, Congressman Jerold Nadler,
Dr. Franklin Kameny, Chris Neff (SLDN)   photo: Tony Breton

Jason Cianciotto, Research Director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force) Policy Institute, testified about the disparity of experiences in the military between lesbian women of color and other women who are veterans. For example, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, black women in same-sex households report veteran status at 11 times the rate of all other women nationwide (11% vs. 1% respectively). This is particularly significant given that, according to SLDN, black women are discharged at a much higher rate than the proportion at which they serve. Even though black women make up approximately 1% of servicemembers, they comprise over 3% of discharges under "Don't, Ask Don't Tell." Clearly lesbian women of color are disproportionately impacted by this discriminatory policy.

Dr. Franklin Kameny, a WWII veteran, and pioneer who founded the gay rights movement in America, stated that those who prevent patriotic Americans from serving in the armed forces are guilty of treason by virtue of aiding our enemies. In his grandly cantankerous curmudgeon style, he offered to "buy the rope and hang them" himself.

AVER-NY members, Majors Leslie Deutsch (ret. JAG officer) and Jeff McGowan (author of Major Conflict) spoke of their experiences as Army officers in combat zones dealing with hiding their own gay identities and the effect of DADT on morale and military retention. Major McGowanís spouse Mr. Van Rostenberg also testified.

AVER-NYís Legislative Liaison, James Reilly (also with Stonewall Democrats) spoke of his lengthy battle to upgrade his own discharge, due to homosexuality, to honorable.

Chris Neff, SLDNís (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) Senior Policy Advocate who has worked on drafting legislation to repeal the ban, testified that "The facts are clear; the military's gay ban hurts military readiness and is a detriment to our national security. The New York metropolitan area is home to approximately 20,000 of our nation's one million lesbian and gay veterans. Each of these men and women, and the more than 65,000 gay service personnel now on duty, are proud, patriotic Americans. Resolution 438 is a landmark step in the battle against the military's ban."

City Council resolution 438A-2004 was introduced by Council Member Alan Gerson and cosponsored by Council Members Boyland, Brewer, Jackson, Lopez, Moskowitz, Nelson, Palma, Perkins, Quinn, Reed, Sears, and Weprin. During the hearing and the press conference that followed, Alan Gerson and Margarita Lopez spoke forcefully in favor of the right of homosexuals to volunteer and serve openly in our armed forces. After a second hearing, yet to be scheduled, the committee is expected to pass the resolution to the full City Council where it is expected to receive a favorable majority vote.

Press Conference, City Hall Mar. 22, 2005

First row, left to right: Denny Meyer, City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, City Councilman Alan Gerson (Speaking), Dr. Frank Kameny, Leslie Deutsch

Second row, left to right: Jeff McGowan, (obscured, James Reilly), Pauline Park (NY Assn. of Gender Rights Advocacy), Dirk McCall (Alan Gersonís Chief of Staff)

Holding AVERNY Banner: Joe Kennedy (AVER-NY VP) and Claude Ashby, Jr.

photos: Tony Breton

Denny Meyer, AVERNY President, Mar. 22, 05 Press Conference, City Hall

In addition to speaking at the press conference for local and national media, which followed the hearing, Denny Meyer (Pres. AVER-NY) will be speaking next week at Congressman Israelís (D, Long Island, NY) press conference regarding HR 1059, the Congressional Bill of which the Congressman is a co-sponsor.

American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender veterans association with chapters throughout the United States. AVER advocates ending the Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy, and is also a service organization for American LGBT veterans. The NY chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights was founded by Denny Meyer, who is also the AVER VP for Veterans Affairs.

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American Veterans For Equal Rights NY
POB 150160
Kew Gardens NY 11415
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