Activists during a demonstration for queer and trans rights in Washington, DC (photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr)

A national museum dedicated to American LGBTQ+ history and culture could be coming to Washington, DC. United States Representative Mark Pocan introduced a bill on September 29 to establish the National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History and Culture, potentially as part of Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institutions. Pocan is a Wisconsin Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus.

The bill establishes an eight-person committee to conduct research into the potential museum, including how much its collection would cost and whether it should in fact be part of the Smithsonian. If the bill passes, the committee will have 18 months before presenting their findings to the House of Representatives, who will then vote on a second bill to establish the museum.

Pocan’s legislation was co-sponsored by 58 additional congresspeople, including the other eight openly gay legislators in the 435-member House.

“As our community faces unprecedented attacks and attempts to erase our history, we must preserve and protect our stories for future generations,” Pocan said. Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric has risen this year alongside an onslaught of legislation that violates the rights of trans people.

“It is vital to remember our collective past — particularly when certain states seek to constrain and repeal existing rights by passing bills that harm LGBTQ+ youth and our community at large,” Pocan added. 

Last year, the New-York Historical Society announced a plan to house the American LGBTQ+ Museum in a massive addition to its Central Park location, but Pocan’s new proposal would establish an official national institution dedicated to LGBTQ+ history.

In April, the House passed a similar bill establishing a committee to study a National Asian Pacific American Museum. If the research convinces the House to sign off on the museum, the institution could join two new Smithsonian museums: the American Women’s History Museum (introduced in 2018) and the National Museum of the American Latino (proposed in 2019). Last week, President Joe Biden stated that the two museums should be built on the National Mall, a location that would signify their value as cornerstones of American history.

“Let’s tell these stories, and honor the many contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made to this nation with a museum in Washington, DC,” Pocan said.

Should both bills be approved by the House, the proposal will need to pass through the Senate before it makes its way to President Biden’s desk. The upcoming midterm elections could ultimately decide the fate of the fledgling museum.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.