New memorial planned for gay veterans at Washington cemetery

A new memorial is in the works for gay veterans, with the coordinating group announcing a final design for the project this week.

The memorial, which is planned for construction at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, will consist of three black granite panels standing 11 feet high and 5 feet wide, according to the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veteran’s Memorial Project.

(Courtesy of the National LGBT Veterans Memorial Project)
(Courtesy of the National LGBT Veterans Memorial Project)

Each of the panels will contain two of the service emblems for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. The pillars will stand in a triangle, allowing visitors to walk inside, where there will be a flag pole and inscriptions explaining the meaning of the memorial.

The National LGBT Veterans Memorial Project purchased a site for the structures close to the grave of Leonard Matlovich, who came out as gay on the cover of Time magazine in 1975. His disclosure led to a discharge from the Air Force and a struggle for inclusion of homosexuals in the armed forces.

The group is raising funds for construction of the project, with most of the money expected to come from gay veterans who want to purchase pavers engraved with their names and service information.

Despite its name, Congressional Cemetery is not a government site, although many notable government figures are buried there, including former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; Elbridge Gerry, who was the fifth vice president of the United States; one Supreme Court justice; six Cabinet members; 19 senators; and 71 representatives.

The cemetery, founded by Christ Church in 1807, acquired its name after the church offered 300 sites to the government for the burial of U.S. lawmakers, according to a history from the operators. Congress accepted the offer and soon purchased hundreds more additional sites on the lot.

Since Matlovich was buried at Congressional Cemetery in 1988, the area near his gravesite has become known as the “gay corner,” according to the National LGBT Veterans Memorial Project. Six gay veterans are buried in the area, said the cemetery’s president, Paul Williams.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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