NPR Story
3:19 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Park Service Launches LGBT Sites Initiative

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 3:31 pm

The National Park Service is set to launch an initiative to fold LGBT historic sites into its commemoration of American history.

The effort, first a study to identify landmarks, is scheduled for kick-off tomorrow at the famous Stonewall Inn in New York City.

Fred Sainz of Human Rights Campaign has been closely following this development. He joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the initiative.

Interview Highlights: Fred Sainz

On his reaction to the announcement

“I think for us, it makes a tremendous amount of sense, for our National Park Service to be telling the story of all Americans; in fact, what they’re terming a complete story of America’s heritage and history, and Stonewall seems a very appropriate place to kick off this process.”

“I think the National Park Service should be congratulated for that, because LGBT Americans are just as important part of American society as any other group. And it is completely appropriate — in fact, quite to their credit that they are wanting to tell a more complete story about American history by taking a look at minority populations in the United States, whose story deserves to be highlighted as part of our nation becoming more democratic, more inclusive, more equal. And certainly the story of LGBT Americans should be a part of that entire narrative.”

On the sites that may be recognized

“I feel it’s really important that scholars, historians, sociologists, members of our community be a part of this process, because we want to ensure that the sites that are selected are truly historical sites. But it is important to understand that, in the context of American history, 230, 240 years in the making now, LGBT history is relatively nascent. We’re talking about the Stonewall movement having been only 45 years ago. That is not to mean that LGBT people did not exist and were not an important part of American history, but yet, our sites, simply because of the stigma associated with being a member of our community, are relatively recent in the context of American history. So you may very well see a number of bars that are recognized as central points in LGBT history, simply because they were the community gathering place, the community centers, if you will, of our community. Whereas now, there is an LGBT community center in virtually every city across America. It used to be that we really had to meet under the cover of darkness, in many ways.”

On whether he fears there will be push-back over the announcement

“Absolutely not, and I think we have to dispel any notion that we are not as deserving of recognition as any other group of Americans. I really think of that thinking as being anachronistic. You know, a few years ago, an avowed opponent of LGBT rights tried to insert the notion that if the Supreme Court ever found in favor of marriage equality, there would be revolution in the streets. And I have to tell you that there is absolutely no evidence for that; in fact, quite the contrary. Americans are continuously embracing equality because they see it as a very natural extension of the equal protection clause of of our Constitution, and probably, much more closer to home, of the golden rule. Perhaps the greatest secret to the success of our movement since Stonewall is that Americans have come to know LGBT people. In fact, the latest Pew research found that nine out of 10 Americans now know someone that is LGBT. And you find that, when people know us, when they understand that we are no different than they are, that we have the same hopes, the same fears, the same struggles that they do, that we’re raising families, and that we want the same thing for ourselves and our families that they want for them — that the artificial barrier that has been put up by opponents, opponents of equality, crumbles very quickly. And so I think that Americans will embrace having LGBT history told as part of the great tapestry of American democracy, because it will be quite natural to them that it is.”

Guest

  • Fred Sainz, vice president of communications and marketing at the Human Rights Campaign.
Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. This news item caught our eye. The National Park Service is looking for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender landmarks and people to commemorate, as in, with plaques. The initiative kicks off tomorrow at the Stonewall Inn in New York, the site of the 1969 rebellion against police raids and brutality. Many consider it the single most important moment in spearheading the gay rights movement. In 2000, Stonewall was designated an historic landmark, and it remains the only one related to LGBT history. But now that's going to change. Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign joins us. And Fred, some in the community, we're hearing, say never in my lifetime did I think I'd see this. Your thoughts?

FRED SAINZ: Well, I think for us it makes a tremendous amount of sense for our National Park Service to be telling the story of all Americans. In fact, what they're terming a complete story of American's heritage and history. And Stonewall seems a very appropriate place to kick off this process.

YOUNG: And we should say that this is part of an overall plan by this Park service to find sites that commemorate Asian-Americans and women. But still it's just, it's such a reminder of how much, such has changed that they are now looking for LGBT sites.

SAINZ: And I think the National Park Service should be congratulated for that because LGBT Americans are just as important part of American society as any other group. And it is completely appropriate, in fact, quite to their credit that they are wanting to tell a more complete story about American history.

YOUNG: And we understand you used to work with the Gill Foundation, which is involved in this initiative. They're contributing $250,000 towards it. The event tomorrow is going to have the secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell, in attendance. And then there are going to be 18 scholars who will study and identify the landmarks. Give me some thoughts as to what may be considered.

SAINZ: So, you know, I feel that it's really important that scholars, historians, sociologists, members of our community be a part of this process because we want to ensure that the sites that are selected are truly historical sites. But it is important to understand that in the context of American history, 230, 240 years in the making now, LGBT history is relatively nascent. We're talking about the Stonewall movement having been only 45 years ago. Now, that is not to mean that LGBT people did not exist and were not an important part of American history. But yet, our sites, simply because of the stigma associated with being a member of our community, are relatively recent. So you may very well see a number of bars that are recognized as central points in LGBT history, simply because they were community gathering places for members of our community.

YOUNG: Do you worry about a backlash from people who don't feel that the same honor that's accorded other things in the National Park Service - a mountain, or a trail, or the home of a famous American - is accorded to a gay person?

SAINZ: No. Absolutely not. And I think we have to dispel any notion that we are not as deserving of recognition as any other group of American. I really think of that thinking as being anachronistic. You know, a few years ago, an avowed opponent of LGBT rights tried to insert the notion that if the Supreme Court ever found in favor of marriage equality, there would be revolution in the streets. And I have to tell you that there is absolutely no evidence for that. In fact, quite the contrary. Perhaps the greatest secret to the success of our movement since Stonewall is that Americans have come to know LGBT people.

YOUNG: Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign. Thanks so much.

SAINZ: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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