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Obama designates Stonewall National Monument

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Obama designates Stonewall National Monument

Obama designates Stonewall National Monument

Stonewall National Monument is the newest addition to America’s national park system, thanks to President Barack Obama who designated the Stonewall Inn and its surrounding area as such last Friday.

“I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country— the richness and diversity, and the uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one,” Obama said in a video released by the White House.

The Stonewall National Monument was officially dedicated Monday. It is the country’s first national monument to LGBT rights and history.

Stonewall National Monument and the National Parks Service

The tavern on Christopher Street is already protected– New York City declared it a landmark in 2015– and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

But as a national monument, the Stonewall Inn and its environs are now under the protection of the National Parks Service.

The total protected area (about 7.7 acres) contains the inn, Christopher Street Park, and several streets where spontaneous protests arose back in 1969, when gay sex was illegal in every state but Illinois.

Stonewall National Monument and the riot that started it all

Police raids of the inn were nothing unusual in those days. Being gay back then was an open invitation to state-sanctioned harassment.

But in the early morning of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn’s patrons had had enough. They fought back.

Police arrested a number of patrons that morning, and people protested outside the bar for weeks afterward, leading to the first march for gay and lesbian rights in July 1969.

Those protests, as well as the inn, are often credited as the initial flashpoint for LGBT rights in the United States.

As Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post said, we know what LGBT means today because of “a small group of LGBT Americans who got fed up and fought for their rights and their dignity 47 years ago outside an unremarkable bar in Greenwich Village.”

Bittersweet dedication at the Stonewall National Monument

The Stonewall Inn has long been a powerful symbol of the LGBT rights movement. People gathered at the place to celebrate last year’s US Supreme Court ruling upholding same-sex marriage.

Also, the streets around the bar are usually jammed during New York’s massive gay pride parades—including the march held one day before the dedication.

Sadly, both this year’s march and the dedication of the Stonewall National Monument were tempered by the recent killings in Orlando.

“We would have celebrated what is good about today and remembered the pain of the past either way, but Orlando put things into a sharper perspective,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the dedication.

Of the Stonewall Inn’s role in the struggle for LGBT equality, de Blasio said: “This is not a place where change happened easily or calmly or gently. It came through a fight. It came through a struggle and that fight must now continue.”

Check out the video released by the White House about the Stonewall National Monument below.

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