The National Park Service says gays and lesbians have been neglected by a lack of historic landmarks and trails to honor their struggle for equal rights, according to advance testimony to Congress.
The statement, obtained by the Washington Times, has been submitted to Capitol Hill for a hearing about Missouri Democratic Rep. William Clay’s bill to create a civil rights themed park trail. Mr. Clay, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in his bill the trail should mark “historically significant events related to struggles for civil rights based on racial equality, including signage or printed materials (or both) that provide information about the people and events involved in such struggles and associated with such location.”
But the NPS appears to have broadened Mr. Clay’s vision to honor gays and lesbians, as well.
“Many civil rights-related sites have been identified and are currently recognized within the National Park System, the National Trails System, and as National Historic Landmarks, such as ones associated with prominent individuals such as Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr. and with well-known events such as the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March,” Acting Director of the National Park Service Daniel N. Wenk’s statement says. “However, a number of civil rights-related sites have not been recognized and some stories are underrepresented such as ones associated with the struggle for rights for American Indians, Hispanic people, and gays and lesbians.”
Mr. Clay’s office did not immediately provide comment about the expanded interpretation of civil rights and messages left with NPS were not immediately returned.
This is not, however, the first gesture the NPS has made to the gays and lesbians.
Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was listed by the NPS on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Riots broke out there in 1969 between gay patrons and the police in a rebellion that NPS material says “sparked the modern struggle for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans.”
Also, a section on the NPS’s website highlighting “diversity” honors contributions made by their gay and lesbian employees.