U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama’s historic designation of the Stonewall National Monument, the first national monument that honors the history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States. The designation permanently protects the site that played a pivotal role in the nation’s LGBT civil rights movement.
Secretary Jewell joined members of the New York Congressional delegation and other federal, state and local officials and LGBT community members at the monument site for a public dedication ceremony.
“This designation ensures that the story of the courageous individuals who stood up for basic rights for LGBT Americans will be forever told, honoring their sacrifice and inspiring our Nation towards greater tolerance and understanding,” said Secretary Jewell. “The tragic events in Orlando are a sad and stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights and equality continues – where who we love is respected and honored – on our march toward a more perfect union.”
The new monument is located at Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, an event that inspired the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
The monument designation today is the result of a year-long effort led by U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, who introduced legislative proposals in Congress to establish a Stonewall National Historic Site as a unit of the National Park System. Separately, in a letter to President Obama, Representative Nadler, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, and other members of the New York congressional delegation requested that the President use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate Stonewall a national monument. State Senator Brad Hoylman and State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, worked together to donate the land to the federal government and make the designation possible.
“The National Park Service is marking its centennial anniversary this year with a renewed commitment to tell a more complete story of our nation, and we are incredibly proud to be entrusted with the responsibility to share the story of LGBT Americans through this historic new national park site at Stonewall National Monument,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We will work closely with the community to ensure that the history we share at this site is inclusive and gives a complete perspective of the historic events that happened there.”
Immediately following President Obama’s designation, the National Park Foundation announced that it will conduct a fundraising campaign to support the effort to prepare the National Park Service’s 412th site to welcome visitors.
The Stonewall Inn, located across from the newly designated national park site, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1999 and subsequently, with Christopher Park and the surrounding streets and sidewalks, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000, recognizing the significance of the events that took place in the late 1960s. The Stonewall Inn was the first LGBT site to ever be designated a National Historic Landmark.
In February of this year, the National Park Service finalized a reconnaissance study that concluded that additional evaluation would likely find that the Stonewall site meets the new unit criteria for inclusion in the National Park System.
In April, the Governor of New York signed state legislation that authorized the City of New York to transfer Christopher Park to the Federal Government, and the City then approved that transfer, paving the way for the site’s designation as a national monument.
In May, nearly 250 people gathered at PS 41 Greenwich Village School to express their views about designating Christopher Park as a national monument. The two and half hour public meeting attracted state and local elected officials, veterans of the Stonewall Uprising, as well as modern-day LGBT advocates, neighbors and preservationists. The majority of speakers enthusiastically expressed support for a Stonewall monument designation.
New additions to the National Park System can be accomplished by an act of Congress or by presidential designation. In Congress, a bill can be introduced to designate an area as a national park unit. That bill must then be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then signed into law by the president.
A unit of the National Park System can also be created through the use of the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to designate a site as a national monument. Since the enactment of the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, 16 presidents have used the authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients and more than 140 national monuments. Almost half of the national parks in the National Park System today were first protected as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.
With today’s designation, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 24 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland (now a National Historical Park in Maryland and New York), and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
Last year the Obama Administration recognized the Henry Gerber House in Chicago as a National Historic Landmark and since 2011 eight other LGBT sites have been named to the National Register of Historic Places including:
- The Furies Collective House in Washington, D.C. – May 2, 2016
- Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico (commonly known as Casa Orguillo or Pride House) in San Juan, Puerto Rico – May 2, 2016
- Julius’ Bar in New York NY – April 20, 2016
- Bayard Rustin Residence in New York, NY – March 8, 2016
- Cherry Grove Community House & Theater in Cherry Grove, NY – June 4, 2014
- Carrington House in Fire Island Pine, NY – January 8, 2014
- James Merrill House in Stonington, CT – August 28, 2013
- Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence in Washington, DC – November 2, 2011
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