News & Politics

An LGBTQ+ Museum Could Be on Its Way to DC

New legislation would establish a National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History and Culture as part of the Smithsonian Institution. But there's a long road ahead of it.

Photograph by AppalachianViews/iStock.

A member of Congress officially introduced legislation last week to establish a National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History and Culture. US Representative Mark Pocan said that as the LGBTQ community faces unprecedented attacks, “we must preserve and protect our stories for future generations.” 

Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, and all eight other openly gay members of Congress signed on as sponsors, as did 50 other representatives. There are actually two bills: one would commission a study of the creation of the museum; another would establish an LGBTQ+ museum within the Smithsonian Institution. Both must pass to create a new Smithsonian museum. 

There’s long process ahead. The commission in Pocan’s bill it would comprise experts in museum curation and LGBTQ+ history and culture. The group would have 18 months to complete its study, which it would then send to Congress. If the legislation does pass, it will likely take multiple Congressional sessions to do so.

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

Pocan announced the legislation two days after thousands of Virginia students staged walkouts across the state, protesting Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed new transgender policies for public schools. A spokesperson from Pocan’s office told Washingtonian that if the legislation isn’t passed by the end of the current session, he plans to reintroduce it in the next session. (Pocan’s district is considered to be a safe Democratic seat.) 

There were plans for an independent National LGBT Museum in New York City in 2015, but those plans seem to have stalled out around 2015. Washingtonian was unable to contact anyone involved in that project.

The next few years will be busy for new Smithsonian museums: In December 2020, Congress passed legislation that established both the American Women’s History Museum and the National Museum of the American Latino. This summer four possible sites were announced for those museums, all close or on the National Mall. It typically takes a decade or more for new buildings on the Mall to open to the public. 

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Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.