Obama Declares Stonewall National Monument at Christopher Park


May 12 cover of Gay City News. | COVER DESIGN BY MICHAEL SHIREY.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | As was widely expected, President Barack Obama has named Christopher Park, a .12-acre park across the street from the Stonewall Inn, as a national monument in recognition of the rebellion that began outside the gay bar in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 after a police raid there. That rebellion, which lasted for days as protesters clashed with police, is widely seen as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement.

In anticipation of the designation, the city of New York had transferred title to the park – which contains the George Segal sculpture “Gay Liberation,” showing a female couple sitting on a park bench and a male couple standing nearby – to the federal government. In his June 24 proclamation declaring the monument, Obama noted that the park, the Stonewall, and adjacent portions of the neighborhood had been declared a national historic landmark by the Interior Department in 2000.

Obama's authority for designating the monument comes from the 1906 Antiquities Act.

The president's action was signaled in a May 9 West Village public hearing chaired by US Representative Jerrold Nadler, who was joined on that occasion by US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Jonathan Jarvis, the National Park Service director.

Jewell and Jarvis will be joined by senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, at a noon dedication of the monument on June 27.

In his official proclamation, the president, noting the beginning of the Stonewall Rebellion, wrote, “Over the course of the next several days, more demonstrations and riots occurred in the surrounding neighborhood including Christopher Park. During these days, because of its strategic location across from the bar, Christopher Park served as a gathering place, refuge, and platform for the community to voice its demand for LGBT civil rights. The Stonewall Uprising is considered by many to be the catalyst that launched the modern LGBT civil rights movement.”

Obama also acknowledged the role Stonewall has played as a gathering place for the community on momentous occasions since then.

“On June 26, 2015, within moments of the issuance of the Supreme Court's historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, LGBT people headed to Christopher Park to celebrate the Court's recognition of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” he wrote. “A few days later, Governor Cuomo continued that celebration by officiating at the marriage of two gay men directly outside the Stonewall Inn. Within minutes of the recent news of the murders of 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida – one of the most deadly shootings in American history – LGBT people and their supporters in New York headed again to Christopher Park to mourn, heal, and stand together in unity for the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”