Oct. 11 is an important day in LGBTQ history. Not only is it the 29th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, it’s also the 30th anniversary of the second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which had an estimated attendance of more than half a million people.
Oct. 11, 2017 is now among those notable ranks because it is the day the first rainbow flag will be permanently raised in New York City and on federal land – sort of. (We’ll get to that.)
Across from the historic Stonewall Inn, where riots sparked the gay rights movement in 1969, is a national monument designated by President Barack Obama in June 2016. It is the first to be dedicated to LGBTQ rights and history, and a flagpole at the eastern side of the park will fly an official rainbow flag for the first time.
“I think it’s important to remember that from June 28, 1969, to June 24, 2016, it wasn’t really regarded as the rightful place in history that it should have – and it does have,” said Ken Kidd, a longtime activist who is an organizer of today’s flag dedication at noon. “This is a big deal.”
But there’s an inches-sized caveat. After Newsweek ran a story on the flag dedication, federal officials said the flagpole is not technically part of federal land as it is a few inches outside the monument – and late Tuesday, the National Park Service pulled out of sponsoring the dedication and any responsibility associated with the flag’s upkeep.
“This abrupt turnaround, 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,” Kidd said in a statement. “It’s no coincidence that this comes on the heels of Attorney General Sessions’s support of religious rights over LGBT civil rights.”
The last time an LGBTQ symbol adorned a national monument was during the March on Washington 30 years ago today when the AIDS Memorial Quilt was spread across the National Mall.
“When people talk about the ‘gay agenda,’ there’s one agenda and it’s an anti-gay agenda being perpetrated by Donald Trump,” Kidd said. “Our struggle for equality is not over by any stretch of the imagination, but we are in it together, and we are not backing down.”
Despite the administration’s efforts to rollback LGBTQ rights such as disallowing transgenders in the military or not designating June Pride Month as previous presidents did, Wednesday’s flag dedication remains a milestone – and a sign for future generations.
“Look up in the sky on Wednesday afternoon and see our rainbow colors flying in tandem with the Stars and Stripes,” Kidd said. “That is a step toward equality the likes we have never seen in New York City or on federal property before – give or take an inch.”