California becomes first state to honour LGBT veterans’ memorial
California has become the first state in the US to officially recognise a memorial dedicated to LGBT+ veterans.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the LGBT+ tribute in Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, into law as an official state memorial on Monday (August 20).
The memorial was built in May 2001, and is made up of a grey obelisk-shaped stone, featuring an eagle and a pink triangle – an international symbol representing LGBT+ rights.
It had been previously acknowledged in formal letters sent by previous US presidents Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama.
The campaign to get the memorial officially recognised was supported by Tom Swann Hernandez, founding chair of veteran organisation AMVETS Post 66.
In a statement to San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Hernandez said: “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.”
The bill was drawn-up by assembly member Eduardo Garcia.
Garcia said in a statement: “I am very proud of all of our constituents and local partners who have held steadfast, organising this effort since the early 2000’s to accomplish this historic feat.
“It was an honour to play a role in being able to help California continue to lead on this next step toward equality and inclusion.
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“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.
“Their sacrifices, in spite of obstacles and facing discrimination, more than merit the honour of a dedicated memorial site and sacred space for their loved ones to mourn the loss of these heroes.”
A previous attempt to get the memorial officially honoured was vetoed in 2004 by governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Responding to the LGBT+ tribute becoming a state memorial, Cathedral City mayor Stan Henry said in a statement: “The LGBT soldiers who bravely fought for our nation and for the freedoms we hold dear, their sacrifices and honour will now be recognised through the official State LGBT Veterans Memorial here in Cathedral City.
“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.”
A ceremony to celebrate the memorial being officially recognised will be held in November at the site.