NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Local and federal officials joined members of the LGBT community at a dedication ceremony officially designating the historic Stonewall Inn as a national monument to gay rights.
They gathered Monday near the iconic Greenwhich Village tavern where the modern gay rights movement took root nearly 47 years ago.
“I could not be more proud than today, where we are here to celebrate and recognize the first new unit of the National Parks system, the first national monument dedicated to the story of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community and their fight for equal rights,” Director of the National Park Service Jonathan Jarvis said.
Speakers at the ceremony included Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mayor Bill de Blasio, among many others. They unveiled the sign that made the national monument designation official.
“This is a piece of progress,” de Blasio said.
“Thank you to everyone. We must get this done,” said Christy Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
“This new national park is for all American,” said Theresa Pierno, president and chief executive officer of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Let us use this national park site to overcome hatred.”
President Barack Obama named Stonewall and the area of the Stonewall riots as the first national monument to gay rights on Friday.
As CBS2’s Dana Tyler reported, late June has been an especially sacred time for the LGBT movement in America ever since the 1969 riots, and much of the struggle and achievement has centered at the Stonewall building at 53 Christopher St.
Police entered the bar for a raid because at the time, being gay was illegal. Nearly half a century later on June 26, 2015, marriage equality was declared the law of the land by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A year after that, President Obama officially designated the Stonewall Inn a national monument.
“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,” Obama said in a video presentation.
The Stonewall National Monument will be anchored by Christopher Park just across from the Stonewall Inn and covers a 7.7-acre swath of Greenwich Village where the uprising took place after the 1969 raid.
“We’re going to remember the struggle, we’re going to remember the people we lost, we’re going to remember that fateful night in 1969 — people here were pursuing something that is a fundamental part of the founding documents of this nation: The pursuit of happiness,” de Blasio said.
Jarvis said Stonewall and Christopher Park have now been welcomed into the family of “America’s most important places,” that includes the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the Statue of Liberty.
Obama said last week the monument would “tell the story of our struggle for LGBT rights” and of a civil rights movement that became a part of America.
At Monday’s ceremony, de Blasio said New York City has a special role to play in the fight for equality.
“In a nation where there is still too many voices of division, and they’ve seemed to have come out ever more strongly in the year 2016, and we see it around the world as well. This city has to remain a beacon of inclusion and understanding and respect and we have to show it works,” de Blasio said.
The owners of the Stonewall Inn are now able to share the special sense of legacy of the site.
“It is really honoring the Stonewall veterans and everyone who was here during riots and all the people who have worked on the struggle for equality,” said Stonewall co-owner Stacy Lentz.
And the Stonewall struggle was commemorated by, among others, those who have survived on behalf of those who did not.
“To have it honored not just by the president — which is a big deal — but I think for so many of us – it’s a sort of vindication of all the people that have been lost,” said Mel England of Hell’s Kitchen.
Others are also expressing a sense of wonder and joy of the designation of this national monument.
“I think it’s beautiful. It’s accepting, and it’s unexpected, and it’s so welcoming,” Maria Gentile, who works nearby, told CBS2’s Steve Langford.
On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced that the bar would be designation a state historic site.
He also said New York City would be the future home to a new LGBT monument dedicated to the victims of the Orlando massacre and the victims of hate crimes everywhere.
A 10-member commission will come up with design recommendations for the new memorial and its location by year’s end.
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