A rainbow flag is currently flying at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall National Monument. Honoring the Monument’s history as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement, a ceremony was held on National Coming Out Day.
Slated to make an appearance, the National Park Service announced its last-minute withdrawal, yesterday morning. Chief interpreter Barbara Applebaum canceled her appearance and planned speech, citing “a schedule conflict,” while the agency’s flag was removed from the pole.
Applebaum was instrumental in the ceremony's planning, arranging a federal permit for the event to take place. Despite the agency’s absence, the ceremony went forward as planned.
The NPS, under the direction Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, later cited the flag pole's location as the reasoning for their departure.
“The flagpole is not on federal property,” NPS spokeswoman Mindy Anderson said. “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.”
The agency’s withdrawal was just another example of the current administration's contempt for the LGBTQ community. Just this year, the NPS removed Stonewall National Monument from their website while President Donald Trump announced June as the Great Outdoors Month, previously LGBTQ Pride Month. Even Zink—a previous member of the U.S. House of Representative—is an outspoken advocate against same-sex marriage opposition.
In a statement to the Washington Post, ceremony organizer Ken Kidd expressed his frustration with not only the decision, but with the current administration in general.
“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.
Adding to the agency’s defense, National Parks of New York Harbor commissioner Joshua Laid said, “We did send mixed signals here, which was very unfortunate... The flag is still up, it’s still flying there. Visitors to Stonewall National Monument will see it, and 99 percent of them will not care if it’s on [federal] property or the city’s.”
The problem, however, was not with the agency’s absence from the ceremony, but rather with the administration's ongoing opposition to LGBTQ advancement.
“One thing they all have in common is an anti-LGBT agenda,” Kidd said. “But that flag is flying proudly over the Stonewall National Monument in New York City. The symbol is up there for all the people who need it—and boy, do we need it more than ever.”