May 2, 2017 at 4:19 pm PDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trump exec order could jeopardize Stonewall Monument

President Obama designated as a national monument the area around the Stonewall Inn last year. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The designation last year of the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village as a U.S. National Monument could be jeopardized by an executive order issued last week by President Donald Trump calling for a review and reassessment of national monuments named since 1996, according to the head of a New York historic preservation group.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said supporters of the Stonewall designation are worried about a little-noticed provision in the Trump order that covers nearly all national monuments, not just those consisting of 100,000 acres or more of federal lands.

The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to review national monuments designated or expanded by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama “where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres” and “where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres.”

But the order also directs the Interior Secretary to conduct a review of national monument designations “where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

Among the factors Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is directed to assess under the executive order are whether national monument designations “create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of federal lands, burden state, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.”

“So you can see it’s pretty open ended,” Berman told the Washington Blade on Monday. “So clearly if they chose to they could use this to reconsider any of those [monument designations],” he said, including the Stonewall National Monument.

“I think there is a great deal of anxiety about this possibility,” he said. “And I certainly think the word is spreading and has spread here in New York that this puts Stonewall at the very least in theoretical danger if not potentially real danger as well.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, disputes Berman’s assessment, saying the overriding aim of the executive order is to review National Monument designations consisting of 100,000 or more acres of land.

“If you’re getting hung up on the ‘adequate outreach’ portion of the order, the Obama administration did ample outreach on the matter of the Stonewall National Monument,” Angelo told the Blade in an email.

He noted that Log Cabin submitted a letter in support of the Stonewall designation, which is featured in the National Parks Conservation Association website.

“So reports attempting to shoehorn the Stonewall National Monument into administrative review is a canard,” Angelo said.

President Obama announced last June that he had designated the Stonewall Inn bar, the adjacent Christopher Street Park, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots as the Stonewall National Monument.

Historians have credited the Stonewall riots, which started when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn and began arresting some of its patrons, as the first significant uprising by gay and transgender people and the spark that triggered the modern LGBT rights movement.

Berman agrees with Angelo that the Stonewall Monument designation was thoroughly vetted by the Obama administration. He said New York City and New York State officials also consulted with local stakeholders in the areas surrounding the Stonewall Inn when they pushed for its earlier designation as a National Historic Landmark. He said the proposed National Monument designation received widespread support.

“Obviously we would argue that there was extensive consultation that went on here,” he said. “But you take nothing for granted with this administration.”

A White House spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether the president or Interior Secretary Zinke have any intention to target the Stonewall National Monument for review or for rescinding its monument designation.

Political observers have pointed out that the executive order was based on complaints by governors and public officials in several western states in which presidents since 1996 designated hundreds of thousands of acres of lands as National Monuments, removing them from use for development.

Televangelist Franklin Graham emerged as a vocal opponent of the Stonewall National Monument designation in May 2016, when news surfaced that Obama was about to announce the designation. He called it a “monument to sin” in a post on his Facebook page.

“I hope the president will reconsider,” he wrote. “Flaunting sin is a dangerous move.”

Mark Meinke, a founding member of D.C.’s Rainbow History Project and former co-director of the national Rainbow Heritage Network, which works to preserve LGBT historic sites, said the 1906 U.S. Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to designate National Monuments, has no provision for rescinding a National Monument designation.

He noted that no National Monument has ever been reversed and any attempt to do so now would likely face a lengthy court challenge.

“In summary, it is highly unlikely the attempt would be made and even less likely that it would succeed,” Meinke said of an effort to rescind the Stonewall National Monument designation.

Jeffrey Harris, the current board chair of Rainbow Heritage Network, said he agrees with Meinke’s assessment but believes the preservation and conservation communities would rise in support of the Stonewall Monument in the unlikely event the Trump administration would try to rescind its status.

“And if there is an attempt to remove that status, I am more than confident that the preservation community will fight that effort vigorously, and the Rainbow Heritage Network absolutely will be a part of that fight,” he said.

The executive order calls on Zinke to provide an interim report on his findings of the mandated review of National Monument designations to the president within 45 days of the issuance of the order and for him to deliver to the president a final report on the findings, along with recommendations for possible “presidential actions” within 120 days.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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