LGBT Group Banned from St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Staten Island
Organizers of Staten Island’s St. Patrick’s Day parade barred an LGBT group from participating in the event last weekend because, the parade’s president said, it was not a “sexual identification parade.”
In February, Carol Bullock, executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island, went to Blessed Sacrament Church where applications to march in the parade were being accepted by organizers. She was accompanied by Brendan Fay, an activist who worked for years to get New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade to welcome LGBT groups.
Irish Central Voice reported that the pair were greeted by parade president Larry Cummings, who refused to even let the Center submit an application:
“Cummings said the parade committee took a decision to ban gay marching groups several years ago after receiving an application from the Pride Center. That position remains in place.
“‘The committee voted so that’s that. Those are the rules,’ he said. ‘Gays can march, but not under a banner. . .Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade.'”
Asked whether acceptance of LGBT groups in New York City’s parade would impact Staten Island, Cummings said “we don’t worry about what goes on in Manhattan.”
The Advocate reported that Cummings remarked that allowing LGBT groups to march is “not compatible with the church and the Catholic tenets,” and that even Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is gay, would be barred if he marched as an out gay man.
Bullock said in a statement reported by Windy City Times:
“All we asked was for our Pride Center to march like every other community group. . .The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ official motto is Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity, none of which seem to apply to the LBGTQ community. They are in fact, creating a culture of segregation and division. Members of the LBGTQ community work, live, worship and contribute to the Staten Island community. Staten Island should have a culture of inclusion and unification.'”
Fay called the decision to not admit the Pride Center “wrong,” adding that, “Irish people are known for our spirit of hospitality. A cultural event in honor of the Irish and St. Patrick himself, a refugee and immigrant ought to be welcoming and inclusive.”
St. Patrick’s Day parades have been quite controversial because LGBT groups were excluded universally for many years. It was only in 2015 that the first LGBT group marched with a banner in New York’s parade . In 2016, the Lavender and Green Alliance, led by Fay, could march in New York. An LGBT group was only admitted to Boston’s parade last year.The ban in Staten Island is a reminder of how closely many people link homophobia with Catholic teaching.
Celebrating Irish heritage should be about celebrating the Irish value of a warm, hospitable welcome. Staten Island’s parade is over this year, but it is never too soon for organizers to apologize to the Pride Center and accept an early application for next year.
I grew up on Staten Island and I went to Blessed Sacrament School and Church. I have three grandparents who were born in Ireland. I am also gay. I have to agree with the parade organizers on this one. Not everything is about being gay. This parade is about being Irish.
Of course it’s not a “sexual identification” parade; it’s about being proud to be Irish. Get a grip folks and let those who wish to participate march. Aren’t there enough real problems in the world. Oh, and by the way, who made you the Lord of all things Irish?!
Cummings (or ANY co-called Catholic who refuses full participation of God’s family in a community event) is confused. Jesus’ politics were motivated by His ethics. Saying the parade is not “political” is absurd. Is is ethical??? Staten Island Irish organizers seem not only unChristian, but unIrish and unAmerican. Go, Brendan (one of our favorite immigrants)
Ireland stands as a beacon of good sense in becoming ‘the first country to legalise same-sex marriage on a national level by popular vote’ this says something so profound about about a spirit of Independance in thought and of a strength of character that is alive in contemporary Irish society. To not understand that we make tradition along the way and to exclude the LGBT Irish community is to deny the total Irish picture. What other groups would suffer under these ‘sanitary laws’ or who already feel maginalised by an airbrushed ‘green and chirpy’ view of what is held to be an ‘authentic’ picture of Irishness. With all respect I am sure Thomas would never say that ‘not everything is about social justice’ to other formerly non-visible Irish identities. Perhaps they get it right next year. Shameful.
My impression is that the Irish people who live in Ireland are much more open and welcoming to LGBTQ people than some of the descendants of Irish people who live in this country. St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland have had LGBT contingents for many years. And the Irish people voted for inclusion when they voted for marriage equality.
Since my trips to Ireland, I have been receiving daily summaries of Irish related stories from Irish Central. It is interesting to read the comments sections at the end of each article. The article about President Mary McAleese’s address to the Voices of Change conference in Rome in which she castigates the leadership of the Catholic Church for misogyny and homophobia, for instance, brought out a slew of vituperative misogynistic and homophobic comments about her and those who criticize church leadership on these matters. From what I can gather, the Irish people, having gained a better perspective on Church leadership from the behavior of church leaders in recent Irish history, are not as tied to the doctrines and leaders are some who post comments on Irish Central, or those who make decisions about St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Plan B could be for all in the LGBT group to wear the same baseball-like cap.