An LGBT+ Pride group is urging a boycott of the historic Staten Island St Patrick’s Day Parade after it was banned from marching for the 10th year running.
The Staten Island St Patrick’s Day Parade has been running for over 50 years and draws more than 50,000 spectators. Around 150 organisations typically march in the parade, ranging from the New York fire and police departments to local businesses, private men’s clubs and high school football teams.
But the Pride Center of Staten Island has not been allowed to participate in the march since 2011, having reportedly been told that their group “promotes the homosexual lifestyle” and “goes against the tenets of the Catholic Church.”
Last year several politicians responded by boycotting the event; this year the Pride Center is urging local businesses to do the same.
“Any organisation who has applied, rethink marching that day. Any organisation who is thinking of applying, again, please rethink that decision,” the Pride Center’s executive director Carol Bullock told Spectrum News.
The annual march is organised by The Parade Committee of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who actively blocked the Pride Center’s attempts to apply for a marching permit by moving the sign-ups to an alternative location.
“Do [sic] to the threat of a protest by the gay pride people/politicians/and minsters of other faiths on the holy grounds of Blessed Sacrament Church the parade must move the parade sign ups to 300 Manor Rd,” a sign on the door read.
Bullock says that when she went to the alternate location, she was told by parade president Larry Cummings that it is a “non sexual-identification parade,” and that not allowing the group to march under its banner is “not discrimination.”
“We just really didn’t get anywhere. He doesn’t believe that it’s discrimination; we clearly feel that it’s blatant discrimination,” she said.
Pride Center is encouraging supporters to frequent the stores and restaurants along the parade route, but not actually march in it.
LGBT+ people are permitted to march in St Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland and also in New York. In 2018, Ireland’s openly gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar marched in the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade with his partner Matt.
It was hailed as a landmark moment for an event that had just three years earlier prohibited the participation of the LGBT+ community.
The Staten Island parade is refusing to follow suit despite mounting calls for change from elected officials who represent the borough, including US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressmember Max Rose, State Senator Diane Savino, and City Councilmember Deborah Rose.
Staten Island GOP Councilmember Steven Matteo said in a statement to Gay City News: “I strongly support the SI Pride Center and other LGBT organisations openly participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s way past time for this to become a reality.”
The march is due to go ahead on March 1. PinkNews has reached out to the parade organisers for comment.