At 1:15 am on June 28, 1969, eight plainclothes police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in Manhattan, and detained and arrested the bar’s employees and patrons.  As a crowd gathered outside, anger over the harassment escalated into a protest that lasted until July 3 and drew thousands of participants.  While not the first gay rights demonstration, Stonewall was the first to galvanize the gay and lesbian community and signal to the world that gay Americans would tolerate nothing less than equal rights.


In 1960s Washington, DC, Dr. Franklin E. Kameny was championing the rights of LGBT individuals. Kameny led the fight to remove sexual orientation as a basis for the hiring or firing federal employees, was part of one of the first legal challenges to the military’s policy against gay members of the armed services, and fought to change the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.  The legacy of his advocacy is seen in everything from federal employment non-discrimination policies, to the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Stonewall riots and the work of Dr. Kameny are part of America’s shared history; on February 16, 2000, the Stonewall Inn was designated a National Historic Landmark and on November 2, 2011, Dr. Kameny’s house was listed in our National Register of Historic Places.
I am proud of the National Park Service’s role in recognizing and sharing the stories of the people and places that have shaped our country.  Some of these stories are well known, others like those of Stonewall and Frank Kameny, are not. But all deserve to be heard, and as America’s storyteller, it is the National Park Service’s honor to give them all voice.
Fifty years ago, people were fired from jobs or evicted from apartments if their sexual orientation became known.  Same sex dancing or kissing was illegal, as was the wearing of clothing traditionally worn by the opposite gender. Because it was illegal for a bar to sell a drink to someone who was known to be gay, there were few reputable places where gay men and lesbians could meet in an open manner.
As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, let’s remember how far we have come – and how far we have yet to go to achieve equal rights for all Americans.   I am committed to living up to our promise to achieve a diverse workforce, to treat every employee fairly and with respect. I encourage all of you to reach out and learn more about the LGBT community, listen to the voices of  your co-workers who have courageously shared their stories in the DOI-sponsored “It Gets Better” video, on the NPS LGBT workforce diversity, and in the Pride videos from the Alaska Regional Office.
-Jon