Inside the Campaign to Honor the Equality Movement With a National Park

It’s not quite Yosemite, but lawmakers are pushing for national recognition of this small and significant strip of New York green.

via Wikimedia Commons user Another Believer

When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, thousands of New Yorkers knew exactly where to go: Greenwich Village, and the Stonewall Inn. In 1969, the gay-friendly establishment was the site of an historic uprising against the police, the labor pains for what would become a powerful gay liberation movement. Celebrating there just made sense.

“When that [Supreme Court] decision came down, all of us instinctively ran to Stonewall,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney told the New York Times this weekend. “I would say [the Stonewall Inn] is already a historic landmark. We just need government to catch up with the people.”

That’s why the New York Democrat joined lawmakers Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this weekend in calling on Congress and the White House to designate a small strip of green opposite the Stonewall Inn as a national park.The federal government placed Christopher Park on the 2,500-site National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but National Park designations are even more rare. There are just 400 National Parks in the U.S., over two-thirds of which honor significant cultural or historical moments in American history.

Christopher Park, via wikimedia commons user Beyond My Ken

“The National Park Service, through national monuments, through national battlefields, all kinds of national things, illustrates the story of this country,” Rep. Nadler told the Washington Blade. “It’s important to expand the diversity of this story presented by the National Park Service, in this case, to present the story of the struggle for civil rights of LGBT Americans. There is nothing in the National Park System that deals with this, and that’s a huge omission in terms of the history of this country, the history of this struggle and the ongoing struggle for human rights.”

New York’s Christopher Park could become a national one in two ways. Congress could either designate the change through legislation, or President Obama could use his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate a national monument.

“[I’m] not terribly hopeful that my Republican colleagues will rush to celebrate the freedom that was fought for at Stonewall,” said Nadler, which is why the lawmakers are focusing their efforts on the White House.

Though the administration has indicated that it’s not yet willing to comment on the park designation, it is currently thinking about ways to officially commemorate the work of LGBT activists. In May 2014, the Interior Department convened a 20-scholar initiative to find and designate more historic LGBT sites. The scholars are expected to release recommendations in 2016.

(Via the Washington Blade)

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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