The Smithsonian Institution could get its first museum dedicated to LGBTQ history and culture under a pair of bills reintroduced Thursday by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
“As our community faces unprecedented attacks and attempts to erase our history, we must preserve and protect our stories for future generations,” said Pocan, the chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, in a Friday statement.
“It is vital to remember our collective past — particularly when certain states, and even Members of Congress, seek to constrain and repeal existing rights by passing bills that harm LGBTQI+ youth and our community at large,” Pocan said. “Let’s tell these stories, the good and the bad, and honor the many contributions the LGBTQI+ community has made to this nation with a museum in Washington, D.C.”
Pocan’s first bill would create an eight-member commission responsible for identifying potential locations for the museum and developing a fundraising plan to support the establishment, operation and maintenance of the facility.
Recommendations put forward by the commission, which would consist of individuals with experience in either museum planning or LGBTQ research, must address whether the proposed museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex. The group would have 18 months under Pocan’s bill to complete its study and submit a legislative plan of action to Congress.
The second bill would formally create the museum, to be considered after the commission completes its study.
Pocan introduced both bills for the first time last year. They are co-sponsored by all eight openly LGBTQ co-chairs of the Equality Caucus: Democratic Reps. Mark Takano (Calif.), Sharice Davids (Kan.), Robert Garcia (Calif.), Becca Balint (Vt.), Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Chris Pappas (N.H.), Angie Craig (Minn.) and Eric Sorensen (Ill.). Neither bill got a floor vote.
Pocan’s reintroduction of the bills comes at a pivotal moment for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. More than 500 bills targeting LGBTQ people were introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and at least 84 became law.
In Congress, House Republicans this year passed legislation to prevent transgender women and girls from participating on female sports teams. Bills that would ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors are also being considered.