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Dedicate a National Park to LGBT History

Dedicate a National Park to LGBT History

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In the United States, there are over 400 national park sites dedicated to cultural and historic significance. Two thirds of these parks and monuments help our country to commemorate important events, movements, and people that have helped shape our nation’s history. For example, Seneca Falls tells the story of the women’s rights movement, and a national park site in Selma serves to commemorate the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There is however, no national site to help tell the story of the continuing struggle for LGBT rights in the United States.

There is currently a movement of people and organizations working together to establish the United States’ first LGBT unit of the National Park System around Stonewall Inn in New York City. The Stonewall Inn is known as the birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement because in June 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against what had become regular and tolerated harassment against gay people by the New York City police department. For the first time in history, LGBT people refused to accept the status quo of oppression and stood up for themselves and the greater LGBT community. The Stonewall Inn, and the uprising there, became an iconic flashpoint that sparked the long battle towards equality for the LGBT community. In order to commemorate this important piece of American history, it is important that Stonewall be recognized and protected as a national monument.

The Union for Reform Judaism recently joined many national organizations in signing a letter to President Obama asking that he use his executive power to designate the area around the Stonewall Inn as a national monument.

One of Judaism’s primary teachings is that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image, and that we should treat everyone as deserving equal dignity and respect. Excluding anyone from our community stands in direct violation of this affirmation of our tradition. It is important that when working towards LGBT inclusion, that we celebrate the history of the LGBT rights movement and include LGBT heritage in our shared narratives. Making Stonewall a national monument would help further this goal. 

Just as the URJ, as an organization, signed a letter supporting the creation of Stonewall into a national monument, individuals can do the same by signing this similar petition.  

As we advocate for a national park dedicated to the LGBT rights movement, it is important to remember that there are still many areas of society where LGBT people face discrimination. Most states do not have laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858) will address this issue by amending existing civil rights laws to include protections based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. If passed, the Equality Act would significantly reduce the amount of discrimination LGBT people face and will provide an avenue for recourse for victims of discrimination. Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support the Equality Act.

For more information about Stonewall’s history and the campaign to make Stonewall a national park, visit the Stonewall Inn’s webpage and the National Parks Conservation Association webpage. To learn more about issues surrounding LGBT rights, visit our issue page.

Tracy Wolf was a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), and currently serves as the RAC's Leadership Development Associate. Originally from Syosset, N.Y., she is a member of North Shore Synagogue and a graduate of Dickinson College.

Tracy Wolf

Published: 3/10/2016