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Activists to hold inclusive St. Patty’s parade to stick it to city event banning LGBTQ+ folks

Child waves Irish flag while watching a St. Patricks Day Parade
Photo: Shutterstock

For decades, LGBTQ+ people have been explicitly banned from Staten Island’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, with organizers claiming the policy is justified based on the teachings of the Catholic Church. After endless battles to make the parade more inclusive, activists have taken a different approach this year and will host their own separate LGBTQ+-inclusive parade.

The inclusive event will take place on March 17th, about two weeks after the original parade.

“We join the overwhelming majority of our neighbors in expressing our relief at the news that an inclusive St. Patricks’ Day parade will finally be held on Staten Island,” Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said in a joint statement with Michael Cusick, CEO of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation and Staten Island Zoo CEO Ken Mitchell.

“We look forward to once again donning our green, sharing perhaps a pint of Guinness, and kicking off a St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Staten Island that will not exclude participants based on who they are or who they love.”

McMahon has boycotted the parade in the past, as has New York City Mayor Eric Adams, due to its exclusionary policy.

A statement from Adams’s team also indicated he’d be participating in the March 17th event.

“From day one, Mayor Adams has been clear that celebrations in our city should be welcoming and inclusive. That is why we are thrilled to be collaborating with the Staten Island Business Outreach Center for their first-ever St Patrick’s Day parade this year where everyone interested – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or beliefs – will be welcome to march together.”

The Staten Island parade is thought to be one of the only St. Patrick’s Day celebrations left in the world that still excludes LGBTQ+ people, according to the Staten Island Advance.

Carol Bullock, executive director of the Pride Center on Staten Island, told the publication, “I’m just so excited to walk down Forest Avenue in celebration of Irish heritage with The Pride Center banner.” Bullock has reportedly applied to join the original parade for years but has always been rejected.

In 2022, Bullock spoke about submitting her application in person to the president of the parade committee, Larry Cummings, who immediately placed it in the rejection pile when she handed it to him. He then did the same with applications from organizations supporting LGBTQ+ firefighters and officers.

“That made it a little more painful because you have F.D.N.Y. and N.Y.P.D. people who are protecting our community, but they can’t march in a parade,” Bullock told the New York Times.

But Cummings has long stood his ground.

“Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture,” Cummings reportedly told The Irish Voice in 2018. “It is not a political or sexual identification parade.”

In 2020, he maintained that position, griping at the Advance that “it’s a non-sexual identification parade and that’s that.”

According to the Times, parade organizers have not only been hostile to the participation of LGBTQ+ groups, but they have even physically removed folks from the parade who they felt supported LGBTQ+ people. In the past, they have also banned individual people from participating.

In 2020, Miss Staten Island, Madison L’Insalata, couldn’t march because she came out as bisexual, and Republican City Councilman Joseph Borelli was barred by parade marshals because he had a rainbow pin on his jacket.

“They physically blocked me, my wife, and two boys in strollers,” Borelli said at the time, adding, “I didn’t come with it looking for an argument. My friends handed a pin to me. I really didn’t think it was a big affront to the Irish.”

But activists are thrilled that this year there will finally be a place for everyone to celebrate.

Bullock told the New York Times, “I am so happy we have taken this parade back for the Staten Island community.”

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