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.