California could have first LGBT veterans memorial in the nation

CATHEDRAL CITY — California could be the first state in the union to have an official LGBT veterans memorial.

AB 2439 would establish the LGBT Veterans Memorial at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City as the official state LGBT veterans memorial.

The Assembly approved the bill Thursday, and it moves to the Senate for a discussion and vote.

California must honor all the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces,” said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, (D-Coachella), who authored the bill. “This memorial is a testament to honor the contributions the LGBT community has made to the security of the United States.”

The memorial, dedicated May 27, 2001, features an obelisk with an eagle and a pink triangle.

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California could be the first state in the union to have an official LGBT veterans memorial. AB 2439 would establish the LGBT Veterans Memorial at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City as the official state LGBT veterans memorial. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia.

Presidents Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama and California Governors Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jerry Brown all have sent special letters praising this memorial.

Tom Swann, founding chair of AMVETS Post 66 and a driving force to have the LGBT veterans memorial dedicated in 2001, approached Garcia last year with the idea of making it the official state LGBT veterans memorial.

This plaque is part of the LGBT Veterans Memorial at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City. Photo: Office of Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia.

Cathedral City officials also support the proposal.

“Designating it as the state memorial it will be on all the state materials and everything and really recognizes thousands of people that have served honorably and need to be recognized,” said Greg Pettis, Cathedral City’s Mayor Pro-tem, the city’s longest-serving council member, and the first openly gay elected official in the Coachella Valley. “It really is there for reflection and for people to come and remember the people.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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