An LGBT organization's application to march in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Staten Island has been rejected.
Carol Bullock, a representative of Pride Center of Staten Island, and Brendan Fay, the founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance, learned LGBT groups were not welcome in the Irish celebration, when they went to apply on February 18 at the Blessed Sacrament Church, where other organizations were registering.
There, Bullock and Fay said they were told by Larry Cummings, the director of the parade, that allowing LGBT groups was against the rules, as "it’s not compatible with the church and the Catholic tenets," according to Bullock and Fay's account. Organizers had voted for the ban in 2017.
"Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade," Cummings told Irish Central Voice. He added, "The committee voted so that’s that. Those are the rules. Gays can march, but not under a banner."
Cummings reportedly told Bullock and Fay that even Leo Varadkar, the gay prime minister of Ireland, would not be allowed to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade if he displayed any visual association with LGBT identity.
The Pride Center is the primary LGBT resource for the New York City borough. Bullock had been hopeful to take part in the community celebration on March 4, after Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day parade lifted its longstanding ban on queer groups in 2014.
"All we asked was for our Pride Center to march like every other community group – with our banner which has the Pride Center logo and reads Pride Center of Staten Island. Our First Amendment, free-speech rights, as well as our desire to march as Irish members of the LBGTQ community are once again denied," Bullock said in a statement to media.
"The exclusion of the Pride Center of Staten Island from the St Patrick’s Parade is wrong. Irish people are known for our spirit of hospitality," Fay added. "A cultural event in honor of the Irish and St Patrick himself, a refugee and immigrant ought to be welcoming and inclusive."
To Irish Central Voice, Cummings was unmoved by the inclusion of the Manhattan march. "The Fifth Avenue parade has no bearing on Staten Island. They are two totally separate entities. We don’t worry about what goes on in Manhattan," he said.
For Bullock, who became executive director of Pride Center in December 2017, the ban is a clear case of bias — and a slap in the face to Staten Island's LGBT community.
"The refusal to allow us to march is an example of the daily struggles and homophobia faced by our community," she said. "The Pride Center of Staten Island is the cornerstone for Staten Island’s LGBTQ individuals, families, and allies. There are nearly 500,000 people living on Staten Island and the Center is the Island’s only comprehensive LGBTQ program and service provider."