Stonewall National Monument -- Telling The Story Of The Struggle For LGBT Rights

Today in Christopher Park in New York City we celebrated the designation of the Stonewall National Monument, the first national monument that honors the history of LGBT community in the United States. These were my remarks.

Thank you, Tommy, for such a gracious introduction. It's an incredible privilege to share this historic day with an iconic trailblazer in the fight for LGBT equality, who played such a central role that fateful early morning on June 28, 1969.

About four years ago, a young woman on my team had the chance to brief President Obama on an event that was about to begin. After the briefing, they chatted briefly about their upcoming birthday plans that were a day a part. When the President asked Monique what she intended to do to celebrate her birthday, she said her partner was planning a dinner with friends. Without a moment's hesitation, the President said, "What does she do for a living?" Monique often reflects back on that casual, seemingly ordinary conversation as a profoundly meaningful affirmation of her life by the President of the United States.

To me, it symbolizes the remarkable progress we have made on the path to this day.

Secretary Sally Jewell, thank you for your leadership and the important role you've played in making the Stonewall National Monument a reality, and in helping to ensure all of our national parks tell the full, inclusive, story of our Nation's history. And thanks to all those in the Obama Administration who worked hard to make this day happen.

Thanks also to Senator Gillibrand and all of our members of Congress who are here with us; as well as to Mayor DeBlasio and leaders from New York City. And to Governor Cuomo and the elected officials in the State of New York who all contributed to make today possible.

And of course, thank you to the advocates, activists, and LGBT Americans young and old, who, working over decades, bent that long arc of the moral universe toward justice.

I am sure President Obama envisioned this day during his second inaugural address when he said, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall." And so today, on behalf of President Obama, I proudly announce his designation of the Stonewall National Monument.

As I reflect back over just the last seven and a half years since President Obama took office, our progress toward that goal of equality has been tremendous.

When the President was sworn in, marriage equality was the law in just two states. And now it is the law of the land nationwide, because the Supreme Court validated what we have known all along. Love is love.

Our President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

He lifted the 22-year HIV/AIDS travel ban and hosted the first International AIDS Conference in over a generation.

The President extended hospital visitation rights for LGBT Americans.

And the Supreme Court upheld the Department of Justice's position that a central provision in the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

The President also prohibited discrimination against LGBT employees by Federal contractors and subcontractors.

Right now, his Attorney General is fighting in North Carolina for Transgender rights, and his Department of Education is helping schools across our country protect the rights of transgender students.

Of course, while the progress we've made during the Obama Administration seems swift, it stands squarely on the shoulders of decades of work. Of steps forward and back. Of ordinary people who refused to sit down, and who demanded to be heard. Over and over and over again.

This moment is a long time in the making. From the early years of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon of the Daughters of Bilitis, to Audre Lorde, all who dared to tell their stories as lesbian Americans. To the days of Harry Hay and Frank Kameny of the Mattachine Society who defended their rights as gay men to be served a drink, and Frank's work with Barbara Gittings on the protest every Fourth of July in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. To the student activism of Stephen Donaldson, a bisexual man, who founded the first LGBT collegiate organization at Columbia right here in New York. To Compton's Cafeteria, where Felicia Elizondo linked arms with her transgender sisters to fight back against discrimination.

And of course, to the event we are here to commemorate today. When, in the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, a group of LGBT Americans at one of the city's most popular LGBT bars -- the Stonewall Inn -- rose up against a police raid that threatened their sanctuary and equal rights. When Martha Shelley, Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, Marsha P. Johnson, and many others, refused to back down, and fought for the dignity and equality they knew they deserved. And if not for the courage of those brave Americans, including those who are here with us today, and the many we lost to AIDS, Christopher Park may never have become nationally recognized hallowed ground in the struggle for LGBT rights.

The Stonewall Uprising awakened our national consciousness to the humanity of LGBT equality, just as previous civil rights battlegrounds had done for the nation, from Seneca Falls to Selma. Stonewall became a profound inflection point in our Nation's history.

That's why President Obama designated this special place as the Stonewall National Monument. He believes our National Parks should represent the inclusive mosaic of America's story. And it reflects our continuing work to perfect our union.

Two weeks ago, LGBT Americans and many allies congregated in Christopher Park as they have before, to mourn, heal, and stand in unity following the tragic murder of 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

That night served as an excruciating reminder that though we have made immense progress -- of which we should all be proud -- our work remains to make the United States a more tolerant, safe, and just country for all Americans.

Today is a symbol of the strength, determination, and resilience of our character, and the true goodness of our struggle.

Thank you all for you commitment to help perfect our country that we love.

Now, it's my pleasure to introduce a visionary leader and someone I proudly call my friend, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.