SACRAMENTO – The next stop is the full Senate for Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s, D-Coachella, legislative proposal designating Cathedral City’s LGBT Veteran Memorial as the state’s official LGBT Veteran Memorial.
The Senate Governmental Organization Committee on Tuesday voted to approve AB 2439, which would make California the first state to dedicate a memorial recognizing the service of LGBT veterans.
Thomas “Tom” Swann Hernandez, a nationally recognized veteran and gay rights advocate, who spearheaded the initial push to dedicate the memorial in 2001, joined Garcia to provide supportive testimony before the committee.
“If AB 2439 becomes law, California will become the first state in America to honor the brave sacrifices of LGBT veterans. 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,” Swann Hernandez said.
Swann Hernandez was invited by President Barack Obama to attend the signing ceremony to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Swann Hernandez is the founder and Commander of American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 66 in Palm Springs as well as the founder and current President of Veterans For Peace of the Inland Empire. In 1993-94, ACLU represented Swann Hernandez in a historic complaint against the Department of the Navy that prompted Navy Secretary John Dalton to add sexual orientation protection in the Navy’s Equal Employment Opportunity policies for civilian employees.
“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 Palms Springs Cemetery District will help advance California towards this next historical milestone.”
Garcia’s AB 2439 will next be presented for a vote before the full Senate. This measure has received unanimous, bipartisan support thus far and has been endorsed by the California Department of Veteran Affairs. Four American Presidents; Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, and three California Governors; Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown have sent formal letters recognizing the memorial.
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.