The Palm Springs American Legion has always been a welcoming place for area veterans, but its leaders fear some may not feel that way. This year during Pride they’re making a concerted effort to change any misperceptions.
State of play: Scott Vincent, who serves as judge advocate, sergeant at arms and historian at American Legion Post 519, said this week there’s a directive from the highest levels of the organization to make sure veterans who are members of the LGBTQ community know they are welcome. It shouldn’t be an issue locally, he said, but it often is.
- “Our local post bylaws state specifically that there is to be no discrimination,” Vincent said. “But now the national commander put out a directive to welcome all of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters immediately at every Legion in the country.”
Why it matters: Similar to many other institutions, discrimination — whether direct or subtle — runs rampant in the military. Despite this, many members of the LGBTQ community still choose to put their lives at risk in service to our country. Organizations for veterans should be places of refuge for all, but often are not.
- In Palm Springs, even though a large percentage of the Legion membership is gay, that reputation still impacts member recruitment.
Zoom in: Members of Post 519 are hoping to combat that by throwing the doors wide open at the Legion hall this weekend. The building located at 400 North Belardo Rd. will be open on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. for the first Pride party ever sponsored officially by the American Legion.
- Leadership at Post 519 is hoping to see LGBTQ veterans show up, have a look around, and find comfort in the camaraderie found inside.
- “Goes to show you, don’t always believe negative news,” wrote Scott Grasser, the Post 519 commander, in a Facebook post. “We are PROUD and Free here in Palm Springs, California.”
But wait: Vincent said Post 519 is also recruiting veterans to march in Sunday’s Pride Parade, behind not only the Stars and Stripes, but also, for the first time, the rainbow flag.
- “It’s a way for us to let the entire Coachella Valley know the American Legion is not just for straight servicemembers only,” Vincent said. “It’s an all-inclusive club. We just need to get more involvement from those who have been so harmed in the past.”
Are you an LGBTQ veteran who wants to march with your fellow veterans on Sunday? Contact Scott Vincent via email at [email protected]