On Saturday, April 27, an important event will take place, and it will never be repeated again in world history. April 27 is the date that we dedicate the very first state memorial to honor our LGBTQ war dead and deceased veterans.
Nation’s first LGBTQ veterans memorial
California is the first state to have a memorial for our LGBTQ war dead. In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation.
The state Assembly and Senate voted unanimously that this memorial honoring LGBTQ veterans should be located in Cathedral City.
Saturday’s dedication will start at 9 a.m. at Cathedral City’s Desert Memorial Park. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
That is a truly big deal and please let me explain why.
Serving in silence
Almost all of the LGBTQ veterans that live in the Coachella Valley served in the U.S. military in silence. Because of discrimination, they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation and perform their courageous duties in the closet. These brave LGBTQ war dead and veterans sacrificed their lives for our freedom while at the same time giving up their freedom to say they were gay. The military did not begin to enable gays to serve openly until the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010.
Please let me share some of the historical facts about honoring our LGBTQ war dead.
- President Jimmy Carter, in 1980, after he lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, approved the first wreath to honor our LGBTQ war dead at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- My friend and mentor, World War II U.S. Army veteran and gay rights pioneer, the late Frank Kameny, organized this simple flower wreath laying ceremony. Kameny coined the famous phrase “Gay Is Good!”
- In 1993, I wanted to place a wreath at the Memorial Day service at Los Angeles National Cemetery. The Culver City VFW Post sponsored this ceremony. The ACLU had to threaten a lawsuit before I could place a wreath for our LGBTQ war dead at this ceremony.
- Former Palm Springs Mayor Will Kleindienst approved the gay veterans marching in the Palm Springs Veterans Day Parade in 1999 despite the objections of every other veteran organization.
It’s about time
It is about time California honored the brave LGBTQ veterans who served and died in silence. Now California honors the LGBTQ veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the cherished freedoms we hold dear and enjoy today.