As expected, LGBTQ organizations were turned away when they tried registering for Staten Island’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade, marking yet another year of rejection for queer groups seeking to participate in the annual event.
Staten Island Pride Center executive director Carol Bullock, accompanied by the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) and the LGBTQ firefighter and EMS organization known as FireFlag, entered the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on February 20 to submit registration forms for Staten Island’s March 6 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The groups have sought to be included in the parade for years, but every time they’ve been rejected.
This time was no different — and parade organizer Larry Cummings showed hostility from the moment queer groups showed up. He tried pressuring them to leave, but they stayed put. A group of supporters stood by outside in silent protest.
“I handed [Cummings] the application and he said, ‘I don’t want that,’” Bullock said. “The minute we walked in, I could see his body language. My board member Alex Carr walked over to introduce himself, tried to shake Larry’s hand, and Larry said, ‘I’m not shaking your hand.’”
Carr — a lifelong Staten Island resident whose grandmother owned a bar in the borough — tried to sit down and have a conversation with Cummings, but had no luck.
This marks the fourth time Bullock has been rejected since taking over leadership of the Staten Island Pride Center. She said she has tried inviting Cummings to the Pride Center multiple times and told him yet again that the offer still stands.
“He’s never taken me up on it,” Bullock said.
“At one point, I said, ‘I don’t understand,’” Bullock added. “We are allowed to march in Boston, in Dublin, in New York City — why not Staten Island? What makes Staten Island so different? He just stared at me.”
When the Pride Center, GOAL, and FireFlag tried registering, they said Cummings directed them to set their paperwork on top of the pile of denied applications, Bullock said.
“As much as I know what to expect, it’s like a gut punch each time and I just, I don’t get it,” Bullock said. “It’s plain outright discrimination.”
Last year’s march was nixed altogether amid the coronavirus pandemic, but in 2020 — just days before COVID-19 slammed the city — the borough’s LGBTQ community turned the rejection into a visible display of Pride as the Pride Center’s members lined the streets with Rainbow Flags.
Many elected officials have opted to boycott the event over the years due to the ban on LGBTQ groups. In 2020, Staten Island Republican Councilmember Joe Borelli was not allowed to participate in the parade because he wore a Rainbow pin.
“Joe told me he’s not marching this year again,” Bullock said.
Like two years ago, Bullock expects “more Rainbow Flags than Irish flags” — but acknowledged sadness that another year will come and go without inclusion in the annual march.
“It’s just really disappointing,” she said.