National Park Service reverses ban on uniformed employees at Pride

National Park Service Pride events

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland reversed a controversial National Park Service directive that would have prevented uniformed employees from participating in Pride Month events. The initial policy, issued May 17, led to widespread backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and agency employees. The directive was a major shift from the agency’s history of supporting LGBTQ+ visibility.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland reversed a controversial National Park Service directive that would have prevented uniformed employees from participating in Pride Month events.

The initial policy, issued May 17, led to widespread backlash from the LGBTQ+ community and agency employees.

National Park Service memo

The memo, first obtained by Politico Pro, said that “requests from employees asking to participate in uniform in a variety of events and activities, including events not organized by the NPS,” conflicted with the agency’s policy.

It’s unclear where the directive, which marked a major shift from the agency’s history of supporting LGBTQ+ visibility, originated and why it was supported by agency officials.

Haaland emailed all National Park Service employees Friday afternoon, reversing the directive. The National Park Service operates under the Interior Department.

Interior secretary reverses ban

Her reversal takes effect immediately.

“I want to ensure that every employee has the opportunity to thrive in a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment,” Haaland wrote in the email.

Haaland emphasized the importance of Special Emphasis Programs at the Interior Department. They include observances for American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, Black Employment, Federal Women’s Program, Hispanic Employment, Individuals with Disabilities and Disabled Veterans, Juneteenth, LGBTQ+ Pride, and Women’s Equality Day.

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Special Emphasis Months

“One way in which we support and celebrate who we are at the Department is through programs organized around Special Emphasis Months, which have been identified by Presidential Proclamation, Executive Orders, and public law to ensure that federal agencies take affirmative steps to provide equal opportunity in all areas of employment,” she wrote.

Also, externally organized events and activities that further the same goals as those in the Special Emphasis Months could include marching units in parades, booths at parades, events, among others, she said.

 “This would allow employees to participate in uniform representing their respective bureau,” Haaland said.

Pattie Gonia responds

Pattie Gonia, a climate activist and drag artist who had appeared in a promotional video with Haaland, who is Native American, in October to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, organized a call to action after the initial policy was revealed.

In a statement, Pattie Gonia praised LGBTQ+ Park Service employees and remained cautious.

“We are communicating with our park service contacts to gather their feedback on this policy update,” she said. “In the meantime, we congratulate queer park service employees on the great lengths that they have gone to secure this reversal. We thank the National Park Service and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland for listening to their employees as well as the general public.

“We remain cautious on how the updated policy will be implemented,” she said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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