LGBTQ groups turned away from Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade again

In this picture from last year, applicants plead with Larry Cummings as he rejects their bid to participate in the annual Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade.
In this picture from last year, applicants plead with Larry Cummings as he rejects their bid to participate in the annual Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Donna Aceto

Another year, another rejection.

The ban on LGBTQ groups from Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade will stay in place for at least another year after organizers turned away the Pride Center of Staten Island and the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) during a hostile registration event on February 12.

Carol Bullock, the executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island, showed up to the registration table alongside LGBTQ marchers and allies — including members of GOAL as well as State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton — to sign up for the borough’s March 5 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Bullock said she was immediately met with antagonism from the event’s organizer, Larry Cummings, who has repeatedly rejected her pleas for inclusion in the annual march. Every year, she is turned away. 

“As soon as I walked in the door, a gentleman stopped everyone and Larry Cummings came up the steps and started engaging with the people outside,” Bullock said. “He was not nice. And then one of the reporters tried to come in where I was and he pushed him out.”

At that point, Bullock said, Cummings looked at her and said, “You run a homosexual organization. I’m not accepting your application — now get out.”

Cummings then locked the door, according to Bullock, who later returned with some police officers. GOAL eventually submitted their application, which was rejected, and then Bullock entered with a lieutenant.

Bullock said she tried to engage with Cummings by showing him a news article about the recent news about the pope’s views regarding LGBTQ individuals and presenting him with the program guide for the Staten Island Pride Center. 

“He wasn’t having it,” Bullock said. “I respectfully put down my application. He started asking me who gave me a copy of the application. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ but he said, ‘No, I want to know.’ As I walked out, he said something and I turned back. The lieutenant said, ‘Carol, just keep going.'”

In a lengthy written statement, GOAL president Brian Downey blasted Cummings and said he would not engage with him in the future.

“I firmly condemn the abhorrent behavior of Parade organizer Larry Cummings, who has become increasingly unhinged and disgusting with each passing year,” Downey said. Anyone who holds such beliefs as Cummings “should be removed from any leadership positions they may hold — and quickly,” Downey added.

Scarcella-Spanton stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ groups after the organizers excluded them.

“As a Catholic Staten Islander with Irish roots, I know what I was taught growing up — to do what’s right,” Scarcella-Spanton said in a written statement. “Excluding the Pride Center from the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is bigotry masked as religion. I will always stand with our LGBT+ community and look forward to continuing the fight to allow them to march.”

The chaotic scene was reminiscent of previous years when the LGBTQ groups have tried unsuccessfully to participate in the parade. Last year, Bullock told Gay City News that when she handed the application to Cummings, he replied, “I don’t want that,” and then refused to shake Bullock’s colleague’s hand.

“I have to be honest, it was an array of emotions,” Bullock said. “I was disgusted. I was upset. But most importantly, when I walked outside, I was thankful that I had people there because they were so supportive. I couldn’t believe how he had reacted to them.”

The Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade remains a lingering holdout at a time when many other St. Patrick’s Day events have updated policies to allow LGBTQ groups to participate, including St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Dublin, Ireland. 

As an alternative, the annual St. Pat’s for All Parade, slated for March 5 in Queens, allows LGBTQ groups and others to participate. The Pride Center of Staten Island has also organized Rainbow Runs that have taken place during the borough’s main St. Patrick’s Day festivities. 

Last year, community Board 1 in Staten Island voted to withhold taxpayer dollars from the borough’s main St. Patrick’s Day Parade until LGBTQ groups are allowed, according to the Staten Island Advance. At the request of the Staten Island Pride Center, City Comptroller Brad Lander’s Office conducted a review that found that the city pays roughly $300,000 for NYPD overtime and Department of Sanitation pay for the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade.