Local LGBT vet says there is 'power in numbers' as DADT repeal fight continues

Georgia gay vets sought to march in Saturday’s Atlanta Veterans Day parade

The Georgia chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights is seeking volunteers to march with them in Saturday’s Veteran’s Day Parade through downtown Atlanta, saying now is the time to show power in numbers especially as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” faces a grim future.

Alejandro Lopez, president of the Georgia chapter of AVER, served in the U.S. Army in administration and as a paratrooper from 1984-1989, before DADT was implemented. He remembers, however, being investigated for being gay in 1986.

“I was at a restaurant and when I left a person with CID [Criminal Investigation Division] came up to me and asked if I was gay. I told him I was not on duty, I was not on base,” Lopez remembers. From that day on he said he realized an investigation was ongoing into his sexual orientation. He received an honorable discharge in 1989.

There are so many other stories like these, Lopez said, and he hopes all veterans who served and who are openly gay will volunteer to march in this year’s Veteran’s Day Parade to show their pride in who they are. Currently there are only about five people who have agreed to march on Saturday.

The contingent will carry a rainbow flag to ensure visibility as LGBT vets.

“There is power in numbers. We need to show up and demonstrate to the public we are proud to be gay and to have served our country,” Lopez said.

A Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s fundraiser is set for Saturday evening as well to raise funds to fight DADT.

Lopez said he and national AVER president, Danny Ingram of Atlanta, will also be attending the fundraiser.

The first year, the judges at the table turned their back to the gay vets when they marched past. The second year, the group was not even acknowledged when groups were announced. But the third year, nothing controversial happened, Lopez said.This year will mark the fourth year Georgia’s chapter of AVER will be marching in Atlanta’s Veteran’s Day parade.

“So that’s some progress,” he said.

“This is not a time to be afraid of who you are and afraid to show your face,” Lopez added. “Anyone who is willing to march with us is welcome.”

The parade begins at 11:11 a.m. on Saturday. Georgia’s AVER chapter will be meeting at approximately 10 a.m. at the Civic Center MARTA station to set up for the parade.

People who want to march are asked to email Lopez at president@avergeorgia.org or call him at 404-429-1316.