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Administration Wants to Designate More LGBTQ Landmarks

The federal government hopes to recognize more landmarks connected with the LGBTQ community, according to National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

Jarvis joined Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on a conference call to discuss the release of the National Park Foundation’s “LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.”

On June 24, President Obama recognized the Stonewall National Monument as the country’s first monument to honor the history of the LGBTQ community in American and the Henry Gerber House in Chicago was named a National Historic Landmark. Jarvis said there are more landmark designations planned in the future.

“This theme study exercise paved the way even before it was fully completed to help add several other sites to the landmarks program and to the National Register of Historic Places, and the better news is that there is more to come,” Jarvis said on the conference call.

“This is just the beginning of what we hope will be a groundswell effort for the public to further increase the number of LGBTQ identified sites and interpretations of LGBTQ people and related events at existing historical sites across the country,” he added.

Jewell said the study marked the “first time ever” that the federal government has documented the history, documents, people and events associated with the LGBTQ community.

“For far too long the struggles and contributions of the LGBTQ community have been ignored in the traditional narratives of our nation’s history. The impact of this study will result in an important step forward in reversing the underrepresentation of stories and places associated with the LBGTQ community and the complex and diverse stories of America,” she said.

Tim Gill of the Gill Foundation, which financially supported the study, praised President Obama and Vice President Biden’s “commitment to advancing LGBT equality.”

“Equality has now become the way the federal government does business. It’s that commitment that led the National Park Service to produce this landmark study,” he said. “It’s not enough to change laws and policies. We have to change hearts and minds.”

Jarvis explained that the study identified 1,300 sites related to the history of the LGBTQ community within the U.S. but that does not mean all of those would ultimately “rise to the level of full designation” as a National Historic Landmark.

“There’s further study necessary for each of these sites, but that’s sort of the goal. This is the foundation of the sort of scholarly work around what are the stories, what are the places, and the next step is to begin to drill down on those sites and prepare recommendations that could go forward to, for instance, the keeper of the national register for a National Register nomination or to the National Park System Advisory Board for designation of national historic landmarks,” he said.

Jewell said one of the goals of the theme study is to inspire college students who might “decide to investigate and research and prepare reports on these sites and stories that we can use to further the designations.”