Pocan renews push to establish national LGBTQ museum

Out gay Congressmember Mark Pocan of Wisconsin is pushing for a new national museum for the LGBTQ community in Washington, DC.
Out gay Congressmember Mark Pocan of Wisconsin is pushing for a new national museum for the LGBTQ community in Washington, DC.
Office of Congressmember Mark Pocan

Out gay Congressmember Mark Pocan of Wisconsin introduced two pieces of legislation Oct. 27 to establish a national museum in the nation’s capital dedicated to America’s LGBTQ history and culture.

Pocan’s first bill, which he introduced in the final days of LGBTQ history month, would create an eight-member commission to “look into the viability of establishing such a facility in the nation’s Capital,” while the second would allow the museum to be part of the Smithsonian Institution. 

The commission would develop a strategic fundraising plan, report on the availability of possible collections, and submit a “legislative plan of action” to Congress. Under the bill, the committee members — who would need to have experience in LGBTQ research or museum planning — would have 18 months to complete their study. 

Both bills currently have eight co-sponsors, all Democrats and co-chairs of the Congressional Equality Caucus, including out gay Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres. 

Meanwhile, New York City has its own LGBTQ museum in the works. Celebrities and local elected officials celebrated the groundbreaking of the American LGBTQ+ Museum in 2021. Ben Garcia, formerly the deputy executive director and chief learning officer at the Ohio History Connection, was hired last January to serve as its new executive director.

Pocan originally introduced the two bills last September. The House of Representatives, however, is currently under GOP control, putting the fate of the legislative package in doubt for now.

Pocan said in a statement that building an LGBTQ history museum is important amid heightened attacks on the queer community, and an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced in State Legislatures across the country — 505 in the 2023 legislative session according to the ACLU.  

“As our community faces unprecedented attacks and attempts to erase our history, we must preserve and protect our stories for future generations,” Pocan said. “It is vital to remember our collective past — particularly when certain states, and even Members of Congress, seek to constrain and repeal existing rights by passing bills that harm LGBTQI+ youth and our community at large. Let’s tell these stories, the good and the bad, and honor the many contributions the LGBTQI+ community has made to this nation with a museum in Washington, DC.”

In a video shared on X, Pocan said, “This is a museum, much like we have done to recognize African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and most recently, Asian Americans. It’s a way to really recognize our community.” 

The Congressional Equality Caucus — chaired by Pocan — welcomed his push for the museum.

“LGBTQI+ History is a part of American history,” the Congressional Equality Caucus posted following Pocan’s announcement. “It should be preserved and shared to foster inclusion & acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community.”