Yesterday, President Obama designated the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City as the first national monument to LGBT rights. This important decision comes not just in the wake of the Orlando massacre, it also comes just shy of the first anniversary of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.
In a moving video tribute to the historic uprising in 1969, where the LGBT community protested police raids and arrests so common at the time—a time when being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered was considered a mental illness and an obscenity—President Obama highlights how LGBT history is American history and deserves to be told. Of the Stonewall Monument, he says, “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country. The richness, diversity, and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.”
This wasn’t the first time President Obama highlighted the importance of The Stonewall Inn. In his second inaugural address, Stonewall was mentioned alongside Selma and Seneca Falls, two of America’s most important sites for African American and Women’s rights. This was the first time a president has ever mentioned gay rights and gay history in a major speech, let alone highlighting how important it is to the overall story of our country.
Although the legalization of same-sex marriage and the broader acceptance of LGBT rights in America has been a defining characteristic of the Obama administration, the Orlando massacre reminds us how far we still have to go. While designating The Stonewall Inn as a national monument is just a step in the continued fight for LGBT rights and visibility, it will, hopefully, show millions of Americans—particularly young LGBT Americans who are unsure of what the future holds for them—that they matter, they have a voice, and they have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, just like everyone else.