Metro Weekly

Park Service Comes to Senses, Will Allow Rangers in Pride Events

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland decreed that National Park Service employees can participate in external Pride events in uniform.

National Park Service logo against a rainbow and one of the national parks – Image by Todd Franson

The National Park Service has reversed course and now will allow employees to participate in Pride parades and events in uniform.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland clarified the policy for Special Emphasis Programs, which are designed to highlight particular needs or promote awareness of underrepresented communities, including racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans, women, and LGBTQ individuals.

“I am directing Bureau leaders or their designated officials to determine how and when bureaus should participate in these externally organized events,” Haaland said in a memo sent to employees of the department, which oversees the National Park Service.

“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.”

On May 9, NPS Deputy Director Frank Lands sent a memo to 20,000 agency employees warning that participating in outside events while in uniform could conflict with NPS’s existing policy, effectively amounting to a ban on the practice.

Internal NPS memos and documents obtained by media outlets also revealed that the NPS was seeking to enforce existing guidelines that would prohibit uniformed employees from participating in events that “could be construed as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party.” 

While the May 9 memo did not directly address Pride-themed events, a follow-up Q&A document noted that Pride events were included in the policy, marking a departure from how the NPS had interpreted its uniform policy in past years.

Additionally, Lands wrote that enforcing the uniform policies would not affect scheduled in-park events — such as those at the Stonewall National Monument, which is both a National Historic Landmark and the first national monument dedicated to the LGBTQ community. Lands also said no previously scheduled official NPS events marking the celebration of Pride Month were being canceled.

In an Instagram post last week, the NPS appeared to affirm that it would still recognize Pride Month internally, including a picture of the Stonewall National Monument, located across from the site of the historic Stonewall Inn gay bar.

“National parks are for everyone,” the post read in part. “As we do every June, parks will be hosting and participating in Pride events and sharing stories that recognize the joy and perseverance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.”

The LGBTQ advocacy media organization GLAAD praised Haaland for reversing the prohibition on participation in Pride events. 

“Our National Parks and the public servants who work there are treasures valued by every American,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “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.

“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.”

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