US Park Service to highlight history of gay rights movement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 9:46pm


The US National Park Service is launching an initiative in an effort to make places and people of significance to the history of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual Americans part of the national narrative.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is convening a panel of 18 scholars next month that will be charged with exploring the LGBT movement's story in areas such as law, religion, media, civil rights and the arts. The committee would identify relevant sites and its work would be used to evaluate them for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, designation as National Historic Landmarks, or consideration as national monuments, park service director Jonathan Jarvis said.

"The park service is, in my view, America's storyteller through place," Jarvis said.

"It's important that the places we recognise represent the full complement of the American experience."

The process mirrors efforts the service already has undertaken to preserve and promote locations that reflect the roles of Latinos, Asian Americans and women in US history.

Jewell plans to announce the initiative today at New York's Stonewall Inn, which was made a national historic landmark in 2000. Stonewall is widely regarded as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. In 1969, a series of riots took place outside when police raided the Greenwich Village bar and arrested patrons and employees, citing morals charges.

But Gerard Koskovich, a San Francisco scholar who will be part of the panel, said the movement actually pre-dates Stonewall by decades and goes back to the founding of the first American gay rights organisation in Chicago in 1924.

The scholars' study, which is expected to be completed by 2016, is being financed by Colorado philanthropist Tim Gill, the founder of software company Quark and a major donor to gay political and civil rights causes.