Darren Manzella, born on August 8, 1977 in Portland, NY. He was a United States Army Sergeant, medic and gay activist who was discharged under the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”policy.
Manzella served in Iraq and Kuwait, and was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. He came out to his commander after rumors of his sexuality emerged in the form of threats to "turn the flame down." Manzella had at that point told his unit that he was gay and had introduced them to his boyfriend, A.J. No action was taken against Manzella due to the Commander finding no evidence of his homosexuality in the investigation, which included a video provided by Manzella displaying passionate kissing between him and his boyfriend. The investigation concluded that he should return to work and he was told, "You're not gay"and that "proof of homosexuality" had not been found. Manzella came out on program 60 Minutes in 2007, the first openly gay service member on active duty to speak to the press from a war zone. His decision to appear on the show resulted from his opposition to “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” and his desire to build momentum for ending it. He believed that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. Due to the 60 Minutes interview, Manzella was discharged with full benefits in June 2008.
Manzella married Javier Lapeira in Rochester, NY on July 5, 2013. On August 29, 2013, Manzella was killed when an SUV hit him as he was in the act of pushing his disabled vehicle off the road in Pittsford, Monroe County, New York.
LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.