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California has the nation’s first LGBT veterans memorial

California is the first state in the nation to have a memorial dedicated to LGBT veterans.

AB 2439, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed Monday, designates “the LGBTQ Veterans Memorial at the Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City as the official state LGBTQ veterans memorial.” The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The Cathedral City memorial, features an obelisk with an eagle and pink triangle. It was dedicated May 27, 2001, nine years before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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

“Our perseverance has paid off,” Hernandez said in a statement. “California is leading the nation by honoring the heroes, many of whom have had to die in silence because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation.”

Garcia ( D-Coachella) authored the bill.

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

Garcia’s bill was introduced in February and completed the legislative trajectory earlier this month.

Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama and California Governors Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jerry Brown all had submitted letters praising the memorial.

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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