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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We AVER that all people are created equal

I had the honor of speaking with Danny Ingram 80Ox 82C, about his historic role with American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

An Atlanta native, Danny enrolled at Oxford College where he enjoyed "a remarkable experience," highlights of which included his involvement in community theatre, and Dr. Hoyt Oliver's religion class, where students were taught "to have the courage to look at faith in a way that allowed us to question it without the fear that our faith would crumble, and in fact, could allow it to grow in different ways.” He went on to double major in psychology and religion.

Ingram enlisted in the military in 1988, drawn by a sense of duty to not "sit on the sidelines while other men and women did the important work of protecting the country. At the time, I knew I was gay and wanted to prove to myself that there was not anything I could not do just because I was gay,” stated Danny, who soon found that military life suited his disciplined nature. But in 1992, Bill Clinton's presidential campaign promise of eliminating discrimination on sexual orientation in the military was the catalyst to the end of Ingram’s military career.

During this time, many servicemen and women were speaking out in support of the movement. True to his character, Ingram was unwilling to sit by safely while others risked their careers for his same fight. “I felt like I had to step out there and join them, so I wrote a letter to my commanding officer saying that I did not agree with the policy [established in 1916 that states homosexuality is incompatible with military service]. He wrote a letter back and asked me if I was gay. I wrote back and said I was and they began discharge procedures,” recounted Ingram.
In the fall of 1993, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was passed. “Unfortunately, that did not help me at all because I had been asked and already told." In early 1994, he became one of the very first servicemen to be discharged under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.

Ingram continued his fight for equality through his volunteer work with the American Veterans for Equal Rights. It was in his role as National President of AVER that Ingram worked with the Pentagon group organized by President Obama to research the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Two decades after being discharged and nearly a century since the policy used to justify his removal from military service was established, Danny Ingram was present during President Obama's signing of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allows for men and women to no longer hide who they are while serving in the military. “He made a promise and he fulfilled it...of all the things that presidents get to do, very few of them sign a law that makes America freer…I am so proud that. He did it, and I was there to see that happen."

Ingram currently works for the Georgia Institute of Technology in the Office of Information Technology.

- Jennifer Crabb 98Ox 00C, Director, Communications & Technology, Emory Alumni Association