President Barack Obama on Friday designated the Stonewall Inn a national monument — the first National Park Service unit “to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,” he said in a news release.
The designation came on the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York and just two days before the NYC Pride March, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots.
“I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country — the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one,” Obama said.
The national monument will include permanent protection of Christopher Park, a stretch of green space across from the Stonewall Inn that is bordered by Christopher Street, Grove Street and West 4th Street. The surrounding streets and sidewalks near the Stonewall Inn, where the riots took place, will also be included in the national monument designation.
Local and state leaders lauded Obama’s decision on Friday, saying the monument will allow residents and visitors to honor the nation’s LGBT history and the people who have stood up for their rights.
“There is no more fitting location for the first monument to LGBT history than Christopher Park across from the Stonewall Inn,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. “The Stonewall Uprising sparked a movement that we still feel to this day, and I am proud that we uphold that legacy by continuing to push for equal rights for all New Yorkers.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the Stonewall Inn “a place that is central to our history and our values, not only as a city but as a nation.”
“Today, the designation of Stonewall Inn serves as both recognition of the bravery of the activists who fought for their right to love, but also as a national embrace of the LGBTQ community after the devastating attack in Orlando,” de Blasio continued in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the designation was extraordinary news for the LGBT community and expressed her admiration for the activists who have fought for civil rights.
“Now, for the first time, when the National Park Service tells the story of the American people — our culture, our history, our diversity — that story will include voices from our LGBT community,” Gillibrand said.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called the Stonewall riots a pivotal moment in the fight for civil rights in the LGBT community, but conceded there is still more to be done.
“This is a historic day for the LGBT community and there is no better site to serve as the national epicenter for LGBT equality than the Stonewall Inn,” Schumer said. “June of 1969 began a long and uphill struggle for LGBT equality, which has made so much progress, but unfortunately still continues today.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Obama’s decisions solidifies that the Stonewall riots were the launching point of the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
“Stonewall is finally taking its rightful place in American history, and I am proud to have championed this effort,” the congressman said. “We are faced with painful reminders daily of how much further we must go to achieve true equality and tolerance for the LGBT community, but honoring and preserving the stories of all of the diverse participants in Stonewall in our National Park System is a clear symbol of how far we have come.”
A National Park Foundation Friends Group, with support from other local and national organizations, will be tasked with supporting the monument by raising funding for dedicated parks personnel, a temporary ranger station and visitor center, research and materials, exhibits, community outreach, and public education.