Interior secretary reverses memo on National Park employees attending Pride events in uniform

Interior secretary reverses memo on National Park employees attending Pride events in uniform

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland confirmed in a Friday memo that National Park Service (NPS) staff will be permitted to participate in LGBTQ Pride Month activities in uniform, reversing an NPS memo from earlier this month that sparked fierce backlash.

In the memo, shared with The Hill, Haaland did not directly name Pride Month but wrote that in addition to the “Special Emphasis Months” observed within the Interior Department, some outside activities and events can be considered in service of the same goals. LGBTQ Americans are among those listed as covered by the Interior Department’s Special Emphasis Programs.

“I am directing Bureau leaders or their designated officials to determine how and when bureaus should participate in these externally organized events,” she wrote. “This could include marching units in parades, booths at parades, events etc. This would allow employees to participate in uniform representing their respective bureau. This direction takes effect immediately.”

The initial, unsigned May 17 memo stated “requests from employees asking to participate in uniform in a variety of events and activities, including events not organized by the NPS,” are not in keeping with NPS policy. LGBTQ advocates vocally criticized the move, including Pattie Gonia, an environmentalist and drag queen who marked LGBT History Month with Haaland last year. She wrote “This is NOT what allyship looks like” in an Instagram post last week.

LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD praised Haaland for reversing the decision.

“Our National Parks and the public servants who work there are treasures valued by every American. Employees should be able to express support for Pride and all celebrations that bring people together to reflect the beautiful diversity of our country and people,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.

“We owe thanks to Park Service employees who spoke up about the discriminatory policy and who work every day to make all feel welcome to enjoy the parks that belong to all of us.”

The Stonewall National Monument, the New York City bar that was the site of the 1969 uprising considered the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, is maintained by NPS.

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