“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.” – President Barack Obama, 2013 Inaugural Address.
NEW YORK CITY – Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have made historic strides in expanding opportunities and advancing equality and justice for all Americans, including LGBT Americans. From major legislative achievements to historic court victories to important policy changes, the President has fought to promote the equal rights of all Americans — no matter who they are or who they love. That commitment to leveling the playing field and ensuring equal protection under the law is the bedrock principle this nation was founded on and has guided the President’s actions in support of all Americans.
President Obama will designate a new national monument June 24 at the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to honor the broad movement for LGBT equality. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the area where, on June 28, 1969, a community’s uprising in response to a police raid sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.
The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states. Additionally, in celebration of the designation and New York City’s Pride festival, the White House, in coordination with the National Park Foundation and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, is releasing a video that will be played on the billboards in Times Square on Saturday, June 25, beginning at 12:00pm ET.
The new Stonewall National Monument will permanently protect Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.
The June 24 designation follows years of strong support from local officials, organizations, members of Congress and citizens in New York City and across the country, as demonstrated recently at a public meeting held in New York City in May. The National Park Foundation is also today announcing that it will support the establishment of a local Friends Group to support the monument and that it will work with local and national organizations and the community to raise funding for dedicated National Park Service personnel, a temporary ranger station and visitor center, research and materials, exhibits, community outreach, and public education.
The Stonewall Uprising
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, one of the most frequented LGBT bars in the city, was raided by the New York City Police Department to enforce a law that made it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to “homosexuals.” Customers and their allies resisted the police by refusing to show identification or go into a bathroom so that a police officer could verify their sex, and a crowd gathered outside.
As word spread, the gathering grew in size and a riot ultimately ensued. Within days, Stonewall seemed to galvanize LGBT communities across the country, with LGBT activists organizing demonstrations to show support for LGBT rights in several cities. These events, which are now often referred to as the Stonewall Uprising, are widely considered to be a watershed moment when the LGBT community across the nation demonstrated its power to join together and demand equality and respect.
Although the LGBT civil rights movement has made significant progress in the pursuit of equal rights and protections under the law, there is still more work to do. As seen two weeks ago in Orlando, FL, LGBT Americans continue to face acts of violence, discrimination and hate. LGBT people of color are especially at risk.
President Obama’s Record and the LGBT Community
In addition to protecting more land and water than any President in history – more than 265 million acres – President Obama has sought to protect places that are diverse, culturally and historically significant, and that reflect the story of all Americans. By honoring the history and accomplishments of the movement for LGBT equality, the June 24 designation will be a historic moment in this effort towards a more inclusive National Park System.
The progress achieved over the last seven years mirrors the changing views of the American people, who recognize that fairness and justice demand equality for all, including LGBT Americans. The Obama Administration’s record on social progress and equality includes:
* Preventing Hate Crimes: Overcoming years of partisan gridlock, the President worked with Congress to pass and sign into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in October 2009, which extends the coverage of Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
* Expanding Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits: In June 2009, President Obama issued a directive on same-sex domestic partner benefits, opening the door for the State Department to extend the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also expanded federal benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees and allowed same-sex domestic partners to apply for long-term care insurance.
* Ending Discrimination in Healthcare: In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama and ensures that Americans have secure, stable, and affordable insurance. Insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against anyone due to a pre-existing condition, and because of the law, insurers can no longer turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The Affordable Care Act also makes it easier for people living with HIV and AIDS to obtain Medicaid and private health insurance and overcome barriers to care from qualified providers. HHS now requires all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds – just about every hospital in America – to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients. The President also directed HHS to ensure that medical decision-making rights of LGBT patients are respected.
* HIV/AIDS Strategy: President Obama developed and released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States in 2010, updated it through 2020, and is implementing it to address the disparities faced especially by gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities and transgender women of color.
* Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The President signed bipartisan legislation to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on December 22, 2010, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the Armed Forces without fear of being dismissed from service because of who they are and who they love, and putting in motion the end of a discriminatory policy that ran counter to American values.
* Ending the Legal Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act: In February 2011, the President and Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining marriage under federal law as only between a man and woman, a provision subsequently struck down as unconstitutional by a landmark Supreme Court’s decision.
* Recognizing the Rights of Same-Sex Couples After ‘Windsor’ Decision: After the United States v. Windsor decision, in which the Supreme Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, the President instructed the Cabinet to review over 1,000 federal statutes and regulations to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly by the federal government to recognize the rights of same-sex couples.
* Constitutional Guarantee of Marriage Equality: The Administration has long advocated for a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality for same-sex couples–a position the Supreme Court vindicated in its historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In October 2015, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced proposed regulations implementing the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision for federal tax purposes to ensure all individuals would be treated equally under the law. And the Social Security Administration (SSA) began to recognize all valid same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income. SSA continues to work closely with the LGBT advocacy community to conduct outreach to ensure that same-sex couples are aware of how same-sex marriage affects benefits.
* Prohibiting LGBT Discrimination for Federal Contractors: In July 2014, the President signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment “because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin,” continuing to set an example as a model employer that does right by its employees.
* Supporting Efforts to Ban “Conversion Therapy”: The President has supported legislative efforts to ban the use of so-called “conversion therapy” against minors and released a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study condemning the practice. This report, which was developed in collaboration with the American Psychological Association and a panel of behavioral health experts, is the first federal in-depth review of conversion therapy. As SAMHSA reported, variations in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are normal. Conversion therapy is not effective, reinforces harmful gender stereotypes, and is not an appropriate mental health treatment.
* Protecting the Rights of Transgender Americans: The Administration has taken unprecedented steps to protect and promote the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans. These actions have included the release of joint guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to provide educators with the information they requested to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination. These actions also include the issuance of guidance from the Department of Justice that concluded that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, including transgender status. Additionally, agencies, including OPM, the State Department, SSA, and HHS, took various actions to ensure that transgender Americans were treated fairly and without discrimination in the workplace, in official documents, and in the health care system.
* Promoting the Rights of LGBT People Around the World: The Obama Administration continues to engage systematically with governments around the world to advance the rights of LGBT persons. President Obama issued a presidential memorandum that directs all Federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. And, in February 2015, the U.S. State Department appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons to lead and coordinate U.S. diplomatic efforts to advance LGBTI rights around the globe.
Under President Obama’s leadership, there have also been other efforts to recognize historic sites associated with LGBT Americans. In May 2014, the Department of the Interior announced that the National Park Service would begin a LGBT theme study and since then, a number of LGBT sites have been designated as a National Historic Landmark or listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence in Washington, DC (November 2, 2011)
James Merrill House in Stonington, CT (August 28, 2013)
Carrington House in Fire Island Pine, NY (January 8, 2014)
Cherry Grove Community House & Theater in Cherry Grove, NY (June 4, 2014)
Bayard Rustin Residence in New York, NY (March 8, 2016)
Julius’ Bar in New York NY (April 20, 2016)
The Furies Collective house in Washington, DC (May 5, 2016)
Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico (commonly known as Casa Orguillo, or Pride House) in San Juan, Puerto Rico (May 5, 2016)
Henry Gerber House in Chicago, IL (June 9, 2015)