President Obama is poised to declare the first-ever national monument recognizing the struggle for gay rights, singling out a sliver of green space and part of the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood as the birthplace of America’s modern gay liberation movement.
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:26,27 (KJV)
While most national monuments have highlighted iconic wild landscapes or historic sites from centuries ago, this reflects the country’s diversity of terrain and peoples in a different vein: It would be the first national monument anchored by a dive bar and surrounded by a warren of narrow streets that long has been regarded the historic center of gay cultural life in New York City.
Federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), will hold a listening session on May 9 to solicit feedback on the proposal. Barring a last-minute complication — city officials are still investigating the history of the land title — Obama is prepared to designate the area part of the National Park Service as soon as next month, which commemorates gay pride.
Obama orders the National Parks Service to begin the process:
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the Stonewall Inn, scene of the riots widely credited with starting the modern gay rights movement, that the National Park Service will begin marking sites of significance to the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Protests at the site, which lasted for six days, began in the early morning of June 28, 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was frequented by gay men. While patrons of the bar, which is still in operation today in half of its original space, had complied in the past with these crackdowns, that time it sparked a spontaneous riot by bystanders and those who had been detained.
Although national monument designations are partly symbolic, backers of the move said it could bolster the fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which led to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
“The president has mentioned Stonewall along with Selma and Seneca Falls in his second inaugural. So it’s fitting that he would be the president to bring this forward,” he said. “It’s breathtaking how far we’ve come, in so short a time.”
“We must ensure that we never forget the legacy of Stonewall, the history of discrimination against the LGBT community, or the impassioned individuals who have fought to overcome it,” Nadler, who has co-authored legislation that would make it a national park, said in a statement. “The LGBT civil rights movement launched at Stonewall is woven into American history, and it is time our National Park system reflected that reality.”
The president described Stonewall as a critical event in the nation’s social progress during his second inaugural speech, reflecting the idea “that all of us are created equal,” and alluded to it again when celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, Ala.
Interior Department spokeswoman Amanda Degroff said Obama “has made clear that he’s committed to ensuring our national parks, monuments and public lands help Americans better understand the places and stories that make this nation great” — though at the moment the administration has no official announcement on the designation. source