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Staten Island’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade still bans gay marchers

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to drop and warm weather begins to break through the winter gray, promising flashes of normal life have begun to reappear in New York City.

In Staten Island, that means the return of the local St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It also signals the return of a bitter dispute over whether gay groups will be allowed to march. As usual, they won’t.

Organizers have long banned gay, lesbian and transgender groups from participating in the local parade, even after New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan ended a two-decade ban in 2014.

In 2020, the last time there was a parade on Staten Island, officials took an even tougher line. Based on what they perceived to be pro-gay and transgender public statements, parade organizers expelled some prominent figures, including Miss Staten Island and a Republican city council member, from the event.

The parade was canceled last year due to coronavirus concerns, but now that it’s back organizers have again refused to allow LGBT groups to join the event, which is scheduled for the March 6.

That led to a broad coalition of elected officials boycotting the celebration, including Staten Island Attorney Michael E. McMahon and Mayor Eric Adams, who has come under fire in recent days for naming three men who opposed the homosexual marriage. in its administration.

“We still hope that the organizers of the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade will see the need to include it in our cultural heritage celebrations and allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to participate,” said Fabien Levy, gatekeeper. word of Mr. Adams. said Wednesday. “Until then, the mayor will not participate in the parade.”

Organizers did not respond to a request for comment last week. But they made their position clear in the entry form for this year’s event, which said in bold capital letters: “THIS PARADE IS NOT TO BE USED FOR AND WILL NOT PROMOTE ID CALENDARS POLITICAL OR SEXUAL”.

The application form also stated that the parade committee would only allow a group to march if it “does not in any way oppose or contradict the teachings and principles of the Catholic Church.

Carol Bullock, executive director of the Staten Island Pride Center, has spent years trying to secure her community center a spot in the parade. She was not discouraged by the tone of the application materials.

She went to a parade registration event at Holy Family Church in Staten Island last Sunday, alongside a representative from Fire Flag, which represents LGBT employees of the New York Fire Department, and the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, which represents law enforcement.

The Pride Center’s request was denied for years because parade organizers insisted it promoted ‘a homosexual lifestyle’ that violated the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and contradicted a celebration of Irish identity, said Ms Bullock. She didn’t expect them to change their minds this year.

“As soon as I saw the application I knew how it was going to be, quite frankly,” she said.

Larry Cummings, the chairman of the parade committee, explained his position in 2018 to The Irish Voice, an Irish-American news agency based in New York.

“Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture,” he said. “This is not a parade of political or sexual identification.”

Mr Cummings told the newspaper that the ‘Fifth Avenue Parade’ decision to allow LGBT organizations ‘has no bearing on Staten Island’.

“They are two totally separate entities,” he said. “We don’t care what happens in Manhattan.”

After the hardships of the pandemic, Ms Bullock said this year’s rejection was particularly painful because of the way parade organizers treated LGBT emergency responders.

Ms Bullock said when she handed her documents to Mr Cummings, he quickly told her the application would be denied.

“Then GOAL handed them their application and he said, ‘No, just put it in that pile there,’ where my paperwork was,” Ms Bullock said. “The GOAL person said, ‘What is this battery for?’ And he said, ‘Those who are denied.’ Then Fire Flag, the same thing happened.

She added, “It made it a little more painful because you have FDNY and NYPD people protecting our community, but they can’t march in a parade.”

The New York City Parade, to be held on March 17 in Manhattan, is the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. A major public event for the city, it is broadcast on television and attracts around 150,000 walkers and two million spectators each year.

The Manhattan parade begins with a mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in the United States. When he ended his ban on gay groups, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he welcomed the move as “wise.”

Smaller parades are held each year in New York-area communities, and in recent years many have followed the Manhattan parade by allowing LGBT groups to march.

The issue has not been controversial in Ireland itself, which has become decidedly secular in recent years. Ireland elected a gay prime minister in 2017 and LGBT groups have marched in parades marking the holiday since the early 1990s.

The parade in Staten Island draws thousands of spectators and is an important event for families and local businesses, but in recent years elected officials have mostly boycotted it due to its treatment of gay marchers.

Staten Island Pride Center and GOAL were told they could not walk in 2020. At the last minute, organizers also banned Miss Staten Island, Madison L’Insalata, from participating after she came out as bisexual and kicked Councilman Joseph Borelli, a Staten Island Republican, from the event after he put a small rainbow pin on his jacket.

Speaking to The Staten Island Advance later, Borelli said parade marshals were so upset at the sight of his pin that they “physically stopped me, my wife and my two stroller boys” from join the parade. They also called the police, he said.

“I spoke to a sergeant and wasn’t going to make life difficult for our cops to prove a point,” said Borelli, who did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. “I didn’t come with this looking for an argument. My friends handed me a pin. I really didn’t think it was a big affront to the Irish.