California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill this week that will dedicate a memorial for LGBT veterans.
AB 2439 makes California the first state in the country to dedicate a memorial specifically for fallen service members who identified as LGBT. The memorial will officially honor an already-established memorial in Cathedral City.
The obelisk memorial in Cathedral City was dedicated May 27, 2001, and features an eagle with a pink triangle, a symbol the LGBT community adopted during the first wave of the Gay Rights Movement.
Similar to the Star of David stitched onto the clothing of Jews during the Holocaust, the pink triangle was used in Nazi concentration camps during WW2 to identify gay or lesbian persons. During the early stages of the Gay Rights Movement in the 1970s, the LGBT community embraced it as their symbol of pride.
The memorial was established by Frank Moulton AMVETS Post 66. The unique eagle-triangle logo is a symbol for the former Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Veterans of America, now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights.
Founder and current commander of Post 66, Tom Swann Hernandez, said at a veterans event last month the memorial is sentimental to many people.
“Our memorial has become a holy place for people who want closure; people who were excluded from the military funerals of their loved ones, excluded from saying goodbye and having an opportunity to gain closure,” he said in Palm Springs Desert Sun.
Hernandez is a veteran of the Marine Corps and Navy Reserve and testified before legislature in favor of the memorial that has been introduced before. It previously passed but in 2004 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.
The Navy attempted to discharge Hernandez in 1992 after he came out as gay. He successfully fought back and continues that momentum to this day. “They tried to diminish the importance of the memorial, but we were bold and we did not give up,” he said at the veterans event in July.
AB 2439 was authored and sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella. “It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for our LGBTQ community to continue to fight for the inclusiveness that you — the men and women in uniform — have fought to ensure,” Garcia said.
Post 66 plans to hold a special dedication ceremony in November.