One for the History Books

Guest writer Richard Burns reflects on the importance of memorializing LGBTQ+ history as a board member of the American lGBTQ+ History Museum

Dear Leaders,

My name is Richard Burns, and I’m writing today as the chair of the founding board of directors of the American LGBTQ+ Museum at the invitation of my friend Todd Sears.

The rich and meaningful lessons that we can draw from history are often lost to time because so many stories are never told. This is especially the case for marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ communities. At the new American LGBTQ+ Museum, we are determined to unearth and share many of these stories by documenting and interpreting our narratives both virtually and in our future exhibition space on 78th Street and Central Park West in New York City. Beyond this traditional role for a museum, we also see our mission as part of the larger movement for equality and liberation, a place that serves as a school for future activists.

In this critical moment in history, when the very foundations of our democratic institutions are under threat—including reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights—the need for an institution that tells our stories clearly, honestly, and with the potential to change hearts and minds couldn’t be greater.

So many of our stories are unknown. Most people have never heard of LGBTQ+ heroes like civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, lesbian rights advocates Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and so many more.  Their collective stories of resistance, action, and achievement will inspire generations to come.

Over the past five years, the diverse team behind the development of the American LGBTQ+ Museum has gone from the seed of an idea to a partnership with the long-established New York Historical Society. The American LGBTQ+ Museum will occupy an entire floor of the Historical Society’s new expansion, which is scheduled for completion in 2026.  That’s when New York City’s newest museum will open its doors at New York’s first museum.

As we build our staff and bring the Museum to life—earlier this year we welcomed our first executive director, Ben Garcia—we invite you to join our community. Follow along with our latest updates, achievements, and public programs and events by subscribing to our newsletter. We also welcome your financial support, which you can learn more about by contacting me or by clicking here. If you have questions or would like to help in other ways, please don’t hesitate to write to me at

Thank you for your time and consideration. Together, we’ll build a brighter future for our community.


Richard Burns
Chair, Board of Directors
American LGBTQ+ Museum

A Message from Todd:

Greetings, All!

I think it’s important – and I’m sure Richard agrees – that we do not allow a week to go by without acknowledging three major milestones for LGBTQ+ equality this week: the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) in the United States Senate, the repeal of Section 377A in Singapore, rolling back the country’s outdated sodomy laws, and FDA’s announcement that it will no longer ban gay and bisexual men from donating blood in contravention with modern science. Both in the United States and Singapore, these historic victories are cause for celebration and also a reminder of the hard work ahead of us.

And there’s a lot to celebrate. By repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and requiring federal and state governments to recognize legal same-sex and interracial marriages, the RFMA assures LGBTQ+ and interracial couples significant protections of their civil, legal, and human rights. 

This is an incredible example of the will of the people becoming law. Just 26 years ago, only 27% of the US population approved of marriage equality. Today that number tops 77%. This rapid change in public opinion couldn’t have happened without the leadership of American businesses, who’ve consistently moved the needle forward on LGBTQ+ equality. From spousal benefits to amicus briefs, business leaders leveraged their economic power to propel our movement forward faster than the government could act.

At Out Leadership, we believe at our core that business can drive equality. For more than 12 years, we’ve been playing the long game, advocating for corporate support of not just marriage equality, but all LGBTQ+ rights, including women’s rights, and equal protection for trans people – all around the world. This week we – you, so many of us – won that game. 

The passage of the RFMA would also not have been possible without fearless OutLEADERs like Senator Tammy Baldwin. A longtime friend of Out Leadership, earlier this year, Senator Baldwin appeared at our annual OutNEXT conference to discuss her experience as the first openly gay United States Senator and her advocacy on behalf of marriage equality.

Nevertheless, it is disheartening that marriage equality is still not codified as a constitutional right, and that Obergefell v. Hodges is vulnerable to reversal by a regressive or hostile Supreme Court. It is also disappointing that, despite overwhelming popular support for same-sex marriage, the RFMA explicitly permits discrimination against LGBTQ+ and interracial couples on religious grounds. This uneasy tradeoff echoes yesterday’s victory in Singapore, where Parliament voted to decriminalize homosexuality repealing the nation’s sodomy laws, but also enacted new constitutional barriers to achieving marriage equality in the city-state. It also mirrors the FDA’s new blood donation policy, which now extends life-saving opportunities to more gay and bisexual men than ever before, but still comes with asterisks that don’t apply to our straight counterparts.

Still, imperfect as these achievements are, they are good, strong demonstrations of how far we’ve come and how far we must continue to go to protect what we’ve won. I’m confident, especially with OutLEADERS like Senator Baldwin leading the way, supported by the power of business, we’re moving closer to our destination – equality for all LGBTQ+ people around the world.



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