President Obama Names the First LGBT National Monument

The Stonewall Inn and its surrounding areas “changed the nation’s history,” he said on Friday.

Celebrations outside the Stonewall Inn after the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision last year (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters)

NEWS BRIEF President Obama on Friday announced the creation of the Stonewall National Monument, the first such memorial in U.S. history to pay homage to LGBT civil rights. It will protect the Stonewall Inn and its surrounding areas in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the site of a 1969 riot that catalyzed the LGBT equality movement. In a presidential proclamation released Friday afternoon, Obama wrote:

The Stonewall Uprising changed the nation's history. After the Stonewall incident, the LGBT community across the nation realized its power to join together and demand equality and respect. Within days of the events, Stonewall seemed to galvanize LGBT communities across the country, bringing new supporters and inspiring LGBT activists to organize demonstrations to show support for LGBT rights in several cities. … The quest for LGBT equality after Stonewall evolved from protests and small gatherings into a nationwide movement.

In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar. Patrons resisted police and began protesting outside, and soon their ranks swelled. Obama characterized the uprising as a “transformative event” in the history of the civil-rights movement, “on par with the 1848 Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March.” The designation comes just days before another ground-breaking moment in the fight for LGBT equality: the first anniversary of the the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.

Members of New York’s congressional delegation and state and city officials applauded the announcement in a joint statement on Friday. “There are places in America so powerful, they helped shape our nation’s history and culture, and must never be forgotten,” National Parks Conservation Association President Theresa Pierno said. “Stonewall Inn, and the area surrounding this historic site, is one such place.” Obama noted in his proclamation that the area has long been a “gathering place” for LGBT Americans during significant events. It was the site of celebrations after the Supreme Court’s ruling, and a place to “mourn, heal, and stand together in unity” after the Orlando shooting.

The creation of the landmark had been anticipated, as part of a broader effort in the National Parks Service to identify sites important to LGBT history. Two years ago, officials from Pierno’s organization began examining possible sites for a monument, and New York City locals were receptive to discussions about designating Stonewall. “[W]e heard a resounding 'Yes, please take this on, it's long overdue,'” one official told CNN last month. At noon on Saturday, a video celebrating Stonewall, and featuring an appearance from Obama, will play on billboards in New York City’s Times Square.