California designates first state LGBT veterans monument
An LGBT veterans monument that was first set up in 2001 in California has become the first state memorial in the US.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB2439 into law officially recognizing the LGBT monument in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.
This also makes California the first state in the US to officially honor LGBT veterans with a memorial.
Move to recognize LGBT veterans monument
This monument is made of gray stone and shaped like an obelisk. It has an eagle and a pink triangle on it to represent the veterans and LGBT rights.
Thomas Swann Hernandez, founder of the veteran organisation American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 66, told the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News: “Our perseverance has paid off. California is leading the nation by honouring the heroes, many of whom have had to die in silence because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation.”
Hernandez and AMVETS Post 66 were the ones who spearheaded the establishment of the monument in the first place.
California assembly member Eduardo Garcia, who drew up the bill, said: “The sanctioning of this first of its kind, veteran memorial demonstrates our immense gratitude for the valiant contributions of LGBTQ veterans, true American patriots, who placed their lives on the line to defend the liberties we enjoy daily.”
The long journey of the LGBT veterans monument
Previous presidents like Gerard Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama have acknowledged the monument in formal letters.
However, a previous attempt to officially recognize the moment was vetoed by then-Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.
Ironically, Schwarzenegger was also one of the three California governors– the other two being Gray Davis and Jerry Brown– that sent formal letters acknowledging the monument.
Cathedral City Mayor Stan Henry said: “This historic memorial, the first of its kind in the entire United States, will be a place for family, friends, and residents to gather in paying tribute to and find solace in their memory.”
The dedication ceremony is scheduled to take place in November, and the AMVETS Post 66 wants the governor to attend the event.
Other LGBT veterans monuments in the US
There is one other LGBT veteran monument, this one approved by the federal government and established on federal land.
This monument, which was spearheaded by the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AMVER), can be found at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.
Likewise, the National LGBT Veteran has been working on the establishment of the Memorial Project, a monument dedicated to LGBT veterans, at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC..
From a Fact Sheet of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) dated September 2011, there is supposedly an estimated 70,871 lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGB) serving in the military and over one million LGB veterans.