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Veteran Legislation Championed by Local Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia Progresses

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif.- – A bill that would make the LGBT Veterans Memorial in Cathedral City’s Desert Memorial Park the nation’s first official state memorial to LGBT veterans cleared its first legislative

Cathedral City Mayor Stan Henry and Mayor Pro-tem Greg Pettis joined Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) at the State Capitol for a historic vote to designate the city’s LGBT Veterans Memorial as the official LGBT Veterans Memorial of California. The Assembly voted in overwhelming support of Garcia’s AB 2439, the legislative measure proposing the classification and applauded the City’s longstanding history of recognizing veterans and promoting equality.



“California must honor all the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. This memorial is a testament to honor the contributions the LGBT community has made to the security of the United States,” stated Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “The Cathedral City LGBT Veteran Memorial is the first of its kind within the entire nation and is well deserving of this recognition.”

“This feat would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts and vision of Thomas “Tom” Swann Hernandez, a veteran and gay rights advocate who founded American Veterans Post 66 in Palm Springs, praised the effort to shine light on an under-appreciated section of the military, as well as leadership, forward-thinking and support of the Palm Springs Cemetery District and Cathedral City.”

AB 2439, authored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, was approved by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, taking California one step closer to being the first in the union to dedicate a memorial to LGBT veterans.

“If AB 2439 becomes law, California will become the first state in America to honor the brave sacrifices of LGBT veterans,” Hernandez said. “Many of these heroes died in silence because they were forced to conceal their sexual orientation. California should lead the country in honoring these brave soldiers.”

The memorial was first dedicated on Memorial Day 2001 and features an obelisk with an eagle and a pink triangle. The bill, which has received the endorsement of the California Department of Veteran Affairs, will next be presented for a vote before the full Senate, according to Garcia’s office.

LGBT Veterans Memorial, Cathedral City

LGBT Veterans Memorial, Cathedral City

“This memorial will stand as a testament to the valiant contributions of our LGBT community in the service of the United States military,” Garcia said. “I thank Mr. Swann for his lifelong dedication to veteran and LGBT issues, as well as all his efforts to bring this memorial to fruition. His advocacy along with the support and forward thinking of the city of Cathedral City and the Palm Springs Cemetery District will help advance California towards this historical milestone.”

The Memorial was first dedicated at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City on May 27, 2001. Presidents Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama have all sent special letters praising this memorial, as have three California Governors; Davis, Schwarzenegger, Brown.

“We have had an LGBT Veterans memorial in Cathedral City since 2001 and with the assembly bill passing out of the assembly that helps create that as a state memorial and not just a local memorial. That is here in Cathedral City. That is great for Cathedral City and it’s great, I think, for the city or the state to be able to recognize our LGBT veterans.  So, we are thankful for Assemblyman Garcia and for the Assembly for passing it,” shared Cathedral City, Mayor Stan Henry.

“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 Cathedral City, Mayor Pro-tem Greg Pettis, the city’s longest-serving Councilmember 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.”

AB 2439 would make California the first state in the union to have an official state LGBT Veterans Memorial. The Assembly approval has advanced this measure on to the Senate.

To better provide for service men, women and their families, Garcia is also carrying a handful of other veteran assistance measures that are currently undergoing the committee process in both the Senate and Assembly. They include:

  • AB 1873 (Obernolte, E. Garcia): Driver’s Licenses: Veteran Designation will save veterans from being charged an additional fee for a veteran designation on their license.

Status: Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing

  • AB 1786 (Cervantes, E. Garcia): Community College Credit for Prior Military Experience would require a statewide articulation officer at the Office of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, who would be designated by the chancellor under the bill’s provisions by March 31, 2019, to, using common course descriptors and pertinent recommendations of the American Council on Education, determine, by July 1, 2019, for which courses credit should be awarded for prior military experience.

Status: Senate Committee on Education

  • AB 1883 (Weber, E. Garcia): Human Services: Child Care and Development Services: Food Assistance Benefits would disregard the military basic allowance for housing as part of calculated income for purposes of eligibility determination for child care, early education and CalFRESH.

Status: Senate Committee on Human Services

  • SB 1043 (Newman, E. Garcia): Department of Veterans Affairs: Veterans’ Services proposes an annual appropriation of $7,000,000 from the General Fund to the Department of Veterans Affairs to be available for allocation to counties to fund the activities of county veterans service officers.

Status: Assembly Committee on Veteran Affairs

  • AB 2325 (Irwin, E. Garcia): County Mental Health Services: Veterans prevents a county from denying an eligible veteran county mental or behavioral health services while the veteran is waiting for a determination of eligibility for, and availability of, mental or behavioral health services provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Status: Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs

  • SB 1137 (Vidak, E. Garcia): Veterans: Professional Licensing Benefits directs CalVet and the Department of Consumer Affairs to actively notify veterans and their spouses of the benefits already afforded to them through existing communication channels.

Status: Assembly Committee on Veteran Affairs

Garcia serves as the chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.  He represents the 56th district, which comprises the cities and communities of Blythe, Brawley, Bermuda Dunes, Calexico, Calipatria, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Indio, Mecca, Oasis, North Shore, Salton Sea, Thermal, Thousand Palms, and Westmorland.

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