In early 1984, following California Governor Deukmejian's veto of AB1 (a California state gay rights measure), writer and health administrator Jim Highland began meeting regularly with fellow veterans to discuss issues relevant to the gay and lesbian community. By May of that year, the group, which had grown to approximately 30 people, began developing a charter, bylaws and incorporation papers. The incorporation papers for the Veterans Council for American Rights and Equality, Inc. (Veterans CARE) were signed by Jim Highland, First Officer, on June 20, 1984, and endorsed by the California Secretary of State's office two days later.
The primary activities of Veterans CARE were fighting discrimination on behalf of former service members and upgrading "dishonorable" discharges to "honorable"; educating the general public on homophobia and discrimination against gays and lesbians, particularly in the U.S. military; organizing West Hollywood's first Veterans' Day Parade and Vietnam Memorial; and publishing a monthly newsletter, Aware. By 1985, local councils of Veterans CARE had been organized in San Francisco and the Redwood Empire, in Rohnert Park, CA.
In 1987, Veterans CARE took an active role in the March on Washington for Gay & Lesbian Rights, and it participated in various national organizing conferences of gay and lesbian veterans. In 1991, lesbian veteran Miriam Ben-Shalom, and other veterans, including officers from Veterans CARE, organized the national organization, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA), with local chapters throughout the United States. Subsequently, the Los Angeles Council of Veterans CARE became the Los Angeles chapter of the GLBVA.
In the spring of 2002, the GLBVA changed its name to American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER). By 2010, Veterans CARE, also known as the Los Angeles chapter of AVER, had become inactive.
Sources: Darby, James C. and Patrick Bova, "History: The Gay Veterans Movement To Achieve Equality in America's Armed Forces," Gay Military Signal, http://www.gaymilitarysignal.com/0905HistoryII.html , last accessed January 26, 2010.
Edward Westrick Collection on Veterans Council for American Rights and Equality, Coll2009-018, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California