The Trump administration was none too pleased, apparently, that the Rainbow flag, an international symbol of the LGBT community’s fight for equality, would be flying over a National Monument and federal lands.
The National Park Service (NPS), which had originally approved and sponsored a ceremony to be held tomorrow at New York City’s Stonewall National Monument to dedicate the Rainbow flag, has suddenly withdrawn.
The event, however, will go on as LGBT activists cite Trump administration homophobia for the last-minute change in plans. They say the withdrawal of support is part of the Trump Administration’s growing hostility toward LGBT rights at the federal level.
The National Park Service has also taken the unusual stop of abandoning responsibilities as proprietor and caretaker of a nautical flagpole that would hoist the Rainbow flag, giving possession of the flag pole and the flag to the City of New York for management and maintenance.
The National Park Service has formally abandoned the Rainbow flag activists had provided to the National Park Service, relinquishing it to the City of New York.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation today gave assurances that the ceremony will go proceed and that flag will fly permanently.
This historic event had originally been planned as an historic first. It was to be the first time the LGBT flag was to wave over federally-funded land and the first time the Rainbow flag had been placed under the permanent stewardship of the National Park Service.
NPS personnel were scheduled to speak at the event; none will, however be in attendance.
In an article for Gay City News, Andy Humm writes: ” When it saw the pre-publicity on the ceremony, the National Park Service under Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Department of the Interior worked to certify that the flagpole adjacent to Christopher Park was not technically on federal land so that no Rainbow Flag would be flying on US government property.
Humm continues: “Mindy Anderson, chief of communications for National Parks of New York Harbor, said, “The only federal property is within the fence line of Christopher Park and some of the gardens. The other area is of historical significance because of the history there for interpretation purposes.”
Anderson said that in the course of issuing a permit for this event, the Park Service learned that “the flagpole is not on federal property. It’s a separate monument to the first person killed in the Civil War. It has never been part of the Stonewall National Monument, although it is located there. The flagpole is not managed by the Park Service. We gifted the flag to New York City Parks,” which continues to administer Christopher Park with the Park Service.
“We always knew that the only area that the Park Service managed was the area within the fence line,” Anderson asserted. “The location of the flagpole is not on federal land. In good faith, because of working with the community, we raised the Rainbow Flag. So with our strong partnership with NYC Parks, we gifted the flag to them so they could continue to fly it.”
“Since planning began this past summer, the NPS had been wholly cooperative,” said Ken Kidd, a spokesperson for the LGBT organizers. “This abrupt turn-around, as well as the NPS distancing itself from this event, is more evidence of the Trump administration’s campaign to reduce LGBT people to second-class American citizens. It’s no coincidence that this comes on the heels of Attorney General Sessions’s support of religious rights over LGBT civil rights.”
Despite the change in flag stewardship, the dedication will go forward at 12:00 Noon on Wednesday at Stonewall National Monument, located in Christopher Street Park in New York’s Greenwich Village.
The park, dedicated a National Monument by the Obama administration, the first such LGBT site so dedicated, is located on the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue South.
The event will be emceed by Gay USA television co-host Ann Northrop. Performers will include Telly Leung, who plays the title role in Disney’s “Aladdin on Broadway” and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. Speakers will be Leslie Cagan, co-organizer of the 1987 March on Washington for LGBT Rights, Kiara St. James, Executive Director of New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and LGBT and AIDS activist Michael Petrelis, who spearheaded this initiative.
Ann Northrop, co-host of GAY USA who will preside over the dedication, told Gay City News, “This is an unbelievably petty, sleazy, transparent bit of cruelty by the Trump administration. Evidently, we are so filthy to them and their right-wing supporters that they can’t even be associated with a few yards of rainbow fabric”
“It is a victory for our Community to have these symbolic colors flying majestically over our Stonewall, designated as a National Monument by President Obama, even as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are under attack by the current regime in power,” said Petrelis.
October 11 also marks the thirtieth anniversary of the historic 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights–when the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt was unfurled on the National Mall. The date also marks the annual National Coming Out Day, inviting the LGBTQ community to live their lives openly.
The flag, originally designed in 1978 by the late artist and activist Gilbert Baker, consists of six stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
Support for the ceremony is being generously provided by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. BC/EFA helps men, women and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. broadwaycares.org
Gilbert Baker died in New York City on March 31 at the age of 65. Memorials to the internationally known activist were held across the globe in subsequent weeks.
The Stonewall Inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.