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Rainbow flag flies at Stonewall, but it’s not on federal land

Rainbow flag flies at Stonewall, but it’s not on federal land

The rainbow flag was raised at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City on Wednesday as planned, but not with the support of the National Park Service, which abruptly pulled out of the dedication ceremony it helped arrange.

It seems the flagpole upon which the rainbow flag now flies is not on federal land, but on land owned by New York City.

Consequently, the National Park Service withdrew and transferred responsibility for maintaining the flag to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

LGBTI activists speculate that Trump administration officials became uncomfortable amid advance publicity that the rainbow flag would wave over federally-funded land.

It was to have been the first time the rainbow flag had been placed under the permanent stewardship of the National Park Service, a federal agency.

‘This is completely just mean-spirited bigotry on their part, to find a technicality to pull out of what they had already agreed upon and worked on for a week,’ Ann Northrop, the ceremony’s emcee, told The Washington Post.

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Interior Department officials made ‘an inquiry’ late last week to verify the claim about who owns the land.

As they researched it, officials discovered the patch of land where the flagpole stands, just outside the gate to Christopher Park, is city owned.

That tiny patch is a separate monument, dedicated to the first person who died in the Civil War, according to New York’s Gay City News.

However, Christopher Park is still a part of the National Park Service. That agency got responsibility for the park in 2016 when former President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall National Monument as the first national monument to LGBTI rights.

In additional to Christopher Park, the adjacent Stonewall Inn (site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots which kicked off the LGBTI rights movement), and the surrounding environs make up the 7.7 acre Stonewall National Monument.

Stonewall Inn
Stonewall Inn David Hudson

Upon discovery that the city owns the flagpole, the National Park Service’s Barbara Applebaum, who arranged the permit for the event and was scheduled to speak at the ceremony, dropped out citing a scheduling conflict.

‘We did send mixed signals here, which was very unfortunate. It became a much bigger deal than we ever expected,’ Joshua Laird, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, told the Washington Post.

Despite the kerfuffle, about 100 people attended the 45-minute ceremony complete with the playing of the national anthem and the singing of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

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Veteran LGBTI activist Ken Kidd, one of the primary organizers for the ceremony, called the last minute switch an ‘outrage.’ He feared this incident was just the latest in a string recent anti-gay actions coming out of Trump’s administration.

‘This is emblematic of what’s happening in the country right now to LGBTQ Americans citizens. We’re being told at every turn — including Trump’s first decision to appoint Pence — that actions will be taken to make us second-class citizens again,’ Kidd told Gay City News.

‘Some employee of the Park Service or Interior read that Newsweek preview article on this because Donald Trump’s name was mentioned by me,’ Kidd continued. ‘They are so thin-skinned and so bigoted that they were going to spite us and not let that rainbow flag fly on federal property.’

Still, Kidd did try to find the positive in the situation, telling the Washington Post, ‘That flag is flying proudly over the Stonewall National Monument in New York City. That symbol is up there for all the people who need it — and boy, do we need it more than ever.’

Gay Star News has contacted the Department of the Interior for comment.