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Gay Vets Honored

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Gay Vets Honored

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

May 7, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Palm Springs, California) Gays in the military who have given their lives in the service of their country were honored Saturday at the nation's only LGBT veterans memorial.

Several hundred people gathered at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City for the service.

This was the fifth annual memorial service at the monument. A color guard carrying the flags of all branches of the armed services, as well as a rainbow flag; marched to the monument.

A wreath was laid and 21 white doves were released as a bugler played "Taps."

Among the dignitaries was gay vet and the president of the Palm Springs Veterans for Peace Tom Swann who had led the effort to have the monument built.

"Our critics say the gay veterans and Jewish veteran memorials in this cemetery divide us," he said. "We say that you can be unique and celebrate diversity and still be united."

"Today we remember men and women who fought for their country knowing their country was not ready for them to fully reveal who they are," said Cathedral City Councilman Paul Marchand, one of the speakers.

With 26 bases statewide, California is home to approximately 137,000 gay and lesbian veterans — the most of any other state.

Nationwide there are more than 1 million LGBT veterans. Currently some 65,000 gays, lesbians and transgendered people are serving in the military despite "don't ask, don't tell" the ban on gays serving openly.

Efforts are underway in the courts and in Congress to overturn the prohibition. One-hundred-and-fifteen members have signed on as co-sponsors of a bill put forward last year by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA). (story)

Last month a federal judge in Boston dismissed a constitutional challenge to "don't ask, don't tell", the ban on gays serving openly in the military. (story) A similar suit is underway in California.

©365Gay.com 2006

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