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 hurdle Tuesday.

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

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.

“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.

“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.”

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