President Obama is honoring the LGBT community with plans to name a space outside of the Stonewall Inn, where the Stonewall riots took place in 1969, part of the National Parks Service (NPS). This move will put another notch in the rainbow belt of the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights. Obama’s plan to designate Stonewall as part of the NPS may occur as soon as early this summer, according to the Washington Post.
The Stonewall monument, which celebrates gay pride, will sit on a plot of land in Greenwich Village in New York City. The plot of land is part private property and part dense urban ground, and spans an area of less than two-tenths of an acre. It is not clear as of yet who holds the land titles, which is playing a part in preventing the monument’s completion.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said: “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.” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, and Nadler will be holding a listening session on May 9, 2016, to elicit feedback on the proposal. The LBGT community feels that with the president’s support, the new monument will serve as a great contribution to the LGBT community and advance the gay rights movement further into the future.
New York City was known to have the largest gay population in the United States during the 1960s, according to American Experience. Despite this, the city was known to have actively upheld sodomy laws from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, which were punishable with a stiff sentence of 20 years to life in prison. Not long ago, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Psychology Association. Against this background, the LGBT community began to fight for their equal rights.
Milestones within the LGBT community have been recorded as early as 1924, when Henry Gerber founded The Society for Human Rights, which is known as the first gay rights organization. In 1948, Alfred Kinsley, a biologist and sex researcher, published Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male, in which he reported that not only gay men have sexual encounters with other men, but 37 percent of all men have enjoyed having sex with other males at least once.
The Stonewall protests, which started in the early morning of June 28, 1969, lasted several days, according to KET, the Kentucky Educational Television network. In 2016, when the gay community at large thinks of Stonewall, they consider it a crucial step in their liberation. At a time where the LGBT community faces political upheaval, which may threaten the advances they have made for equality to date, a national monument memorializing their fight would be especially important.
The LGBT community has made strong advances in their fight for equal rights throughout the years; the latest of those coming with the approval of gay marriage, which Bill Chappell of WNPR News announced on June 26, 2015, in his article, “Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal in All 50 States.” It has taken 91 years of activism by gay rights supporters to get to this point, and the recent intention declared by Obama to build a Stonewall monument within the NPS is another step in their fight for equality.
By Tracy Blake
Edited by Jennifer Pfalz
PBS KET: Stonewall Uprising
The Washington Post: White House Poised to Create First Monument to Gay Rights
American Experience: Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement
PewResearchCenter: Same-Sex Marriage State by State
WNPR News: Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal in All 50 States
Image Courtesy of indigo’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License