Staten Island, NY – The Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade is usually a packed event, with little room to get to the front of the barricades. In the West Brighton neighborhood, Irish culture is abundant and the parade is a big event for anyone of any background to come and celebrate — that is if you’re not marching. Despite public wants and politicians’ protests, the Richmond County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee refuses to allow any LGBTQ+ groups to march in the parade.
For the past couple of years, residents have shown up to the parade waving rainbow flags in hopes it would show the committee their support — but their efforts have not changed the committee’s minds. I attended the parade this year and to say the least, less and less people have shown compared to the years before. The crowd was scarce, but among many of the onlookers I saw pride flags flying in the wind and shouts from residents to allow LGBTQ+ groups to participate. The parade itself was even shorter, due to politicians such as Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) and City Councilman David Carr (R-Mid-Island) refusing to walk.
Both gay men, Borelli tried participating in the 2020 parade but was quickly denied by the parade marshal when he was seen wearing a pride flag on his lapel. “The irony is that every year the crowd gets smaller, interest wanes, and yet more rainbow flags line the route in protest,” he said to SILive.com. “If they see that as a success, may the wind always be at their backs.” An old Irish saying.
One group, Richmond County REACT, marched in the parade and snuck in some rainbow flags and waved them as they passed by the crowd.
Three LGBTQ+ groups were barred from marching in the parade — the Pride Center of Staten Island, the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) New York and FDNY FireFlag/EMS. Carr said to SILive.com, “St. Patrick’s Day is about the celebration of Irish culture. LGBTQ organizations across the globe from Dublin to Boston to right here in New York City, are allowed to march in the parade.” New York City has allowed groups to join the parade since 2014, Chicago since the 1990’s and Boston since 2017. Why is Staten Island refusing to run with the times?
According to organizers, the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Parade is about the celebration of Irish culture and heritage along with the Roman Catholic faith. Allowing LGBTQ+ groups to join the parade would go against the beliefs of the church. “THIS PARADE IS NOT TO BE USED FOR AND WILL NOT ALLOW POLITICAL OR SEXUAL IDENTIFICATION AGENDAS TO BE PROMOTED,” included in the rules in bold letters. “THE PARADE IS FOR THE CELEBRATION OF ST. PATRICK AND OF IRISH HERITAGE.”
Anti-abortion group Staten Island Right to Life League marched in the parade. As they passed, the crowd went quiet.
“As a Staten Island Irish Catholic, it’s with a heavy heart but it’s the right thing to do. After all we’ve been through in our country, in our city, and on Staten Island … this is the wrong message to send at the wrong time. I will sadly but proudly stand with the LGBTQ community and not march,” said District Attorney Michael McMahon to SILive.com.
Only two Staten Island politicians marched in the parade, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and Borough President Vito Fossella. “The Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of our very best traditions, an event that my family and I have enjoyed throughout the years and will do so again this year. While I wish the parade organizers would reach a different decision, ultimately it is their decision, not the government’s,” Fossella said to SILive.com.
As both politicians marched by, LGBTQ advocates and supporters shouted “Let the pride groups march!” Malliotakis and Fossella just looked on and waved, averting their eyes.