On Friday, Sally Jewell, Interior Secretary, announced that the National Park Service will begin marking places of importance in the history of the American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. She stated that one of the National Park Service’s responsibilities is to tell the story of this civil rights journey. Jewell made this announcement at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York. Stonewall Inn is known for riots that took place there in 1969 in protest to a police raid of a bar in Greenwich Village where people were arrested on moral charges. In the year 2000 it became classified as a national historic landmark. Her announcement comes just before LGBT pride month which is in June.
Next month, Jewell is expected to organize a panel of 18 scholars who will carry the tasks of researching the details and history of the American LGBT movement. They will explore religion, law, civil rights, media and the arts and pinpoint specific locations that will be considered for addition in the National Register of Historic Places. Jewell stated that the country is moving forward in ensuring that the civil rights of minority groups are protected. Jonathan Jarvis, Park Service Director stated, “The Park Service is, in my view, America’s storyteller through place.”
“It’s important that the places we recognize represent the full complement of the American experience,’’ he said.
Executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Eliza Byard, commends the Park Service for their efforts in recognizing the LGBT community and stated that this will serve as a tool for teaching students about LGBT history through taking field trips to the specifically marked sites. In 2011, California was the first state to pass a law that requires public schools to teach their students about the influences that LGBT Americans have made throughout the country’s history. Although California has made efforts in regards to education of LGBT Americans, there are several states who have done the exact opposite. One such state is Arizona, where school curriculums cannot contain any material that would present a homosexual lifestyle in a positive light.
Since the elections in 2008 regarding Proposition 8 which eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry, some states have taken steps towards the equal treatment of the LGBT community especially in regards to same-sex marriage. As of this year a total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. These states are: Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
One of the scholars who will be on Jewell’s panel is Gerard Koskovich from San Francisco. He stated that the history of the American gay rights movement really began in 1924 with the establishment of America’s first gay rights organization in Chicago. Nearly a century later the United States is continuing their slow but active process towards protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community. In support of their efforts, the panel study has received a $250,000 donation from The Gill Foundation which is an organization that provides funding for civil rights work for the LGBT movement.
By Sarah Temori