The iconic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, and parts of the surrounding neighborhood in New York City, N.Y., were named a national monument June 27.
This is the first unit of the National Park Service that commemorates the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The distinction for Stonewall Inn is fitting: Police harassment of LGBTQ patrons at the New York City bar in 1969 kicked off the riots that are now viewed as the beginning to the gay rights movement.
In his 2013 inaugural address, President Obama notably named the site in a discussion of the ongoing journey toward equality.
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” President Obama said.
A number of dignitaries spoke at the dedication ceremony on June 27, including President Obama’s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, as well as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Sally Jewell, who oversees the National Park Service (NPS) as secretary of the Department of the Interior, also spoke.
“The National Park Service is America’s storyteller,” Sec. Jewell said in her speech. “We shine a light on the moments that make us proud, and those from our darker chapters that make us reflect.”
She noted that the Obama administration has been active in designating such sites, in order to ensure that the NPS tells a more “inclusive” and “diverse” story. Recent designations include the Pullman National Monument, which commemorates a multi-racial labor strike, and the Cesar Chavez National Monument, named in honor of the Latino union organizing icon.
The naming of the Stonewall National Monument came on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots themselves, but also during a Pride Month marred by the slaughter of 50 people at a different gay establishment — Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“Look, we would have celebrated what is good about today, and we would have remembered the pain of the past either way,” Mayor de Blasio said. “But Orlando put things in a sharper perspective — reminded us of what it means to keep fighting. This place is so important.”
Martín Witchger, Associate Digital Campaigns Manager for the League of Conservation Voters and an audience member at the ceremony, agreed.
"The shooting in Orlando shows how much we still need to work on and overcome in terms of violence and bigotry against LGBT people," Witchger, who is gay, and traveled from Washington, D.C., to join the ceremony, said.
"But how beautiful and moving it is to have Stonewall as the first national park unit to honor the LGBT rights movement."