Outward

Obama Makes Stonewall America’s First LGBTQ National Monument

Women embrace before a makeshift memorial in front of the Stonewall Inn, where a vigil was held following the massacre that occurred at a gay Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016.

Monika Graff/Getty Images

In early May, news broke that President Barack Obama’s administration, through the National Park Service, was making moves to designate New York’s Stonewall Inn and a surrounding slice of Greenwich Village a national monument. It would be the first to mark a site of importance in LGBTQ history. On Friday, on the eve of New York’s Pride festivities—which began and continue as a celebration of the movement-launching riots that spilled out of the bar in 1969—the president confirmed the designation. Going forward, no tour of the nation’s most cherished historical and natural treasures will be complete without a stop at one sacred to LGBTQ Americans.

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As part of the announcement, the White House released a moving video, featuring Stonewall veterans and other activists, detailing the history of the event and the nation’s still-incomplete progress toward recognizing its queer citizens with the equality they deserve. Even if you know the story, it’s worth a watch simply to hear our president acknowledge queer people’s struggle in such a direct and authentic way.

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For a look at the site itself, which will center on the small, triangular Christopher Park across from the privately owned bar, check out Slate’s featurette, produced ahead of the formal announcement:

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It will not be lost on queer people—nor should it be on anyone—that this honoring of a gay bar and the people who needed it comes less than two weeks after another such place, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida., entered history as the site of the worst mass shooting America has ever seen. I and many others viewed gay bars as a physical and spiritual center of queer life long before the Pulse massacre. But reporting from Orlando this past weekend—including from a number of gay bars in the area—my admiration for the feeling of comfort and scenes of beauty they provide was strengthened beyond words.

This weekend, as we celebrate the right and proper honoring of one gay bar and enjoy the pleasures of many others, let’s take a moment to reflect upon their power—for getting us drunk and laid, yes, but also for forming family and spurring activism, for transforming bar stools and back rooms into a kind of home.

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