Monument to Stonewall Draws Wide Support

     MANHATTAN (CN) — About 150 New Yorkers turned out Monday to support Stonewall Inn’s designation as a national monument, solidifying the iconic Greenwich Village bar’s resonance with the gay rights struggle, just as Seneca Falls recalls the march for women’s suffrage, and Selma symbolizes the civil-rights movement.
     Hosted by the elementary school P.S. 41, the public meeting on the initiative fell nearly a half-century after the 1969 police raid at Stonewall ignited protests that laid the foundation for defending lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
     “The march for justice continues from marriage to monuments, and I always want to be on the right side of history,” New York City’s public advocate Letitia James said.
      Despite strides activists have made over the decades, James emphasized the recent news out North Carolina that shows there is still more work to be done.
     Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two key figures in the Stonewall uprising, were prominent transgender rights activists.
     Repeating her remarks for the landmark-designation panel and reporters outside the school before the meeting, James said there are places in the country where these Stonewall activists could be barred from using the bathroom of their choice, had they survived to see the dedication.
     Mariah Lopez, the executive director of Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR), said she considers herself a daughter of Rivera, whom she met as a teenager.
     Lopez and a handful of other of speakers chided the landmarks panel for overlooking what they viewed as a less affluent, more diverse slice of LGBT life.
     Activists who came of age on the Hudson River Piers say development of the Hudson River Piers Trust eradicated what had been a center for many.
     “I grew up on the pier in 1998,” Lopez said. “I came out when I was 13 years old. That pier was a completely different place. You couldn’t even go to half of it. It was torn down.”
     Lopez said she would urge Obama to designate the piers to commemorate “women of color of trans experiences.”
     A prominent transgender activist, Lopez previously lobbied the New York City Police Department regarding the death of Stonewall’s Marsha Johnson. Four years ago, Johnson’s death was reclassified from a suicide to a possible homicide.
     Several officials echoed President Barack Obama’s remarks from his second inaugural address comparing the Stonewall uprising to Martin Luther King’s march on Selma, Alabama, and the convention for women’s rights led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, New York.
     U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who is pushing for Stonewall’s designation on the federal level, noted that she was only 13 years old at the time of the uprising.
     Homosexuality was illegal in most states, and gay and lesbian people had “no right to love who they choose,” the secretary said.
     Citing laws that once prevented people from wearing clothes of the opposite gender, Jewell gestured toward her own outfit — a gray blazer and pink shirt.
     “Isn’t it great that that’s no longer the case?” she asked to applause.
     Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, wore his ranger uniform as he recalled Obama’s words at the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday” when state troopers attacked nonviolent activists marching from Selma to Montgomery.
     “There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided,” the president said at that event. “Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.”
     Yet Jarvis said gaps remain in that roster.
     “One of those gaps is Stonewall,” he said.
     Constructed as stables in the 19th century, Stonewall became a restaurant in 1930, and was converted to a gay bar just two years before the police raid that provoked the riots. Its significance to the LGBT right movement was immediate, but its recognition from federal, state and local would take decades.
On the eve of the 21st century, and a full 30 years after the uprising, the bar was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission assigned its formal status days before last year’s Supreme Court ruling against state laws banning same-sex marriage.
     Legislators, historians and activists — of a range of sexual and gender identities — expressed their overwhelming support for the designation for more than two hours at the meeting, which was sponsored at the local level by Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
     CNN quoted anonymous Obama administration officials as predicting the president would approve the monument in time for LGBT Pride Month in June.
     Once approved, the National Park System will come up with a general management plan to decide what form the monument will take. There is no official estimate as to when the dedication might be constructed, as the 50th anniversary of the uprising looms in 2019.

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