ABOVE: One expert said the Stonewall Monument ‘dodged a bullet.’ Washington Blade photo by Michael Key
An executive order issued by President Trump in April calling for a review and reassessment of U.S. national monuments named since 1996 will not impact the designation of the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village as the nation’s first LGBT national monument.
According to a report released on Tuesday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Stonewall Monument was not included on a list of 27 national monuments that Zinke singled out for review in May.
His 20-page report, which the executive order called on him to prepare, also did not include the Stonewall Monument in a list of 10 monuments he recommended be changed and reduced in size.
President Barack Obama in 2016 designated the Stonewall Inn bar, its surrounding streets, and a city park adjacent to it as a U.S. National Monument. He said the designation was in recognition of the 1969 Stonewall riots triggered by a police raid on the bar that historians consider the starting point of the modern LGBT rights movement.
At the time Trump issued his executive order on April 26, LGBT activists in New York expressed concern that a little-noticed clause in the order could impact small national monuments such as the Stonewall, even though Trump said his aim was to downsize national monuments located mostly in the western U.S. that consisted of hundreds of thousands of acres of land.
The order directed the Secretary of the Interior to review national monuments designated or expanded by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama “where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres.”
It also directed the Secretary to assess whether national monuments designated by the three presidents, regardless of their size, “restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.”
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said at the time the order was issued that its language was “open ended” and might be interpreted to single out the Stonewall for removal of its national monument designation.
“I think there is a great deal of anxiety about this possibility,” he said in May.
When told on Tuesday that Zinke’s final report carrying out the executive order did not mention the Stonewall Monument in its targeted list of monuments, Berman said he was pleased but concerned about what might happen later.
“While I’m heartened to know that the Stonewall dodged the bullet in this round I think it is extremely disturbing and terrible this president and his administration is going back and seeking to undo national monument designations,” Berman told the Washington Blade.
“And given the sway that the far right and the religious right has over the decision making process in this administration, I feel that we need to remain vigilant whether it’s about the Stonewall or a whole range of other decisions that could come down from this administration with implications for the LGBT community,” he said.
Zinke’s report was released one day after Trump announced on Monday during a visit to Utah that he would reduce by 1.1 million acres the size of the Bear Ears National Monument and would reduce by over 800,000 acres the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Both are located in Utah.
Trump’s action drew immediate praise by some state officials and residents, who considered the designation of the two monuments by President Obama in 2016 and President Bill Clinton in 1996 respectively to be too massive in size. Environmentalists, however, criticized Trump’s decision and vowed to fight the action in court.
Heather Swift, the Interior Department’s press secretary, and Alex Hinson, the department’s deputy press secretary, each told the Blade on Tuesday that the fact that the Stonewall Monument was not mentioned in Zinke’s report means it will not be changed or impacted by the president’s executive order.
Swift said a list was released by Zinke in May of the national monuments that he would review.
“Stonewall was never on it,” she said.