California becomes the first state in the nation to recognize LGBTQ military veterans.
On Monday Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill designating the LGBTQ Veterans Memorial at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, and making it the state’s official LGBTQ Veterans Memorial. The memorial park will assume the maintenance of the monument.
In 2001 the memorial was established by Frank Moulton AMVETS Post 66 which is based in Palm Springs but was not recognized by the state until now. It is an obelisk of mahogany granite from South Dakota with the logo of the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Veterans of America. According to a press release it was the nation’s first memorial to be dedicated to LGBTQ veterans.
“Our memorial has become a holy place for people who want closure; people who were excluded from the military funerals of their loved ones, excluded from saying goodbye and having an opportunity to gain closure,” Tom Swann Hernandez, founder and current commander of Post 66.
Hernandez testified before the state legislature to argue for the memorial to be officially recognized by the state. Legislation such as this was introduced and passed before, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) voted the bill in 2004.
It was said that, “People said, ‘Well, if you have a gay veteran’s memorial, then we’ll have one for left-handed veterans one day, for right-handed veterans,’” at an event in July Hernandez said “that there are people who try to diminish the importance of the memorial, but we will not give up.” Assembly Bill 2439 passed with bipartisan support, whereas before it was opposed by Republicans.
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia the chief sponsor of AB 2439 stressed the importance of honoring LGBTQ veterans because of the struggles many had to endure to serve in the military. Hernandez successfully fought the Navy when they attempted to discharge him after he came out in 1992. Today Donald Trump’s administration is trying to prevent transgender people from serving. . “It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for our LGBTQ community to continue to fight for the inclusiveness that you — the men and women in uniform — have fought to ensure,” Garcia said
A special dedication ceremony will be held in November hosted by Post 66 and they have invited Gov. Brown.