President Obama Names First National Monument To LGBT Rights
Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which is widely considered the start of the modern day movement for LGBT rights. As President Obama said in his Second Inaugural address, the Stonewall Uprising was “a watershed moment for LGBT civil rights and a transformative event in the Nation’s civil rights movement on par with the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights in its role in energizing a broader community to demand equal rights.”
President Obama commemorated the Stonewall Uprising last week by naming the Stonewall National Monument as the “newest addition to America’s national park system,” which is the United States’ first national monument to LGBT rights and the 24th national monument that President Obama has created or expanded since taking office. With new monuments dedicated to the history of Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers movement, the Underground Railroad, the fight for women’s suffrage, the Buffalo Soldiers, and the history of the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, President Obama is forging a proud conservation legacy by building a system of national parks and monuments that better reflects America’s diversity.
The Stonewall Uprising occurred when police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Police raids in gay bars were commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s, but on June 28th, 1969, the patrons in the Stonewall Inn, led by transgender women of color, fought back against the raid. After police arrested many of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, protests continued for weeks outside the bar, followed by the United States’ first march for LGBT rights in July 1969. In order to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising, June has been designated LGBT Pride Month, with cities across the country holding Pride marches.
The president’s announcement is a highly visible marker of the progress for LGBT rights made during the Obama Administration. Under Obama, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—the policy requiring that gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members hide their sexual orientation while serving in the military—was repealed in 2011. A year and a day ago, love won as the Supreme Court ruled to legalize marriage for same-sex in all 50 states, affirming what a supermajority of Americans believe—two years after the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Additionally, this year, in response to discrimination against the transgender community in education, President Obama released a directive on transgender rights with regards to school settings. And on July 1st, the Pentagon is set to lift the ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
Though a lot of progress has been made, the recent tragedy in Orlando and the wave of hundreds of anti-LGBT bills in states and localities across the country prove that there is still more to be done to protect all LGBT people in the United States. LGBT Americans experience violence at a disturbing rate, especially LGBT people of color. And a majority of states still lack explicit legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That means that an LGBT person could get married one day, but still be at risk of being fired from her job, refused service from a business, denied housing, or more just because of who she is. The facts are that the LGBT community needs both federal and state comprehensive nondiscrimination protections. The bipartisan Equality Act, which was introduced in both houses of Congress last summer, would do just that.
BOTTOM LINE: The Stonewall Uprising was a flashpoint for LGBT rights and commemorating it as a national monument shows the significant progress that has been made. But, especially in light of ongoing violence and state-sponsored discrimination, there is still more to be done. The LGBT community needs nondiscrimination protections at both the federal and state level, including the Equality Act.
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