PRESS RELEASE: LGBT ire as NYPD Commissioner Kelly leads anti-gay St. Patrick's Parade

PRESS RELEASE – immediate release
Date: March 17, 2010
Contact: JF Mulligan 914-489-9204
Emmaia Gelman 917-517-3627


New York – Lining the side of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade with civil rights slogans and chants, the NYC-based group Irish Queers protested the famously anti-gay parade today. Protesters charged that the participation of more than a dozen uniformed NYPD and FDNY contingents, featuring tens of thousands of marching police and firefighters, is a violation of both city law and LGBT civil rights.
Parade spectators cheered the protest on, and many stopped to join in.
Since 1993, the parade’s organizers have claimed an explicitly anti-gay message in the event, and have redefined the parade as a “private religious procession.” New York City law protects LGBT people against discrimination by police, firefighters and other arms of city administration.

“The NYC St. Patrick’s parade has been a battleground where the religious right tries to erase LGBT people,” said Tierney Gleason of Irish Queers. “The historically homophobic NYPD and FDNY support that exclusion by marching in uniform, en masse in this anti-gay demonstration.”

“Anti-gay discrimination is now illegal in both Ireland and New York City. The NYPD, FDNY and Mayor Bloomberg need catch up. As city representatives, they cannot legally march until parade organizers renounce their discriminatory message,” said JF Mulligan of Irish Queers.

“For two decades, we’ve stood on the parade sidelines and watched hordes of uniformed cops, firefighters and EMTs march in a parade that has been defined in court, by its organizers, as a homophobic parade. We’ve heard them call out, as they march past, that the only way we’ll march in ‘their’ parade is in coffins,” said Emmaia Gelman of Irish Queers.

“We’ve had our permits to protest the parade mysteriously held up and denied by the NYPD, and we’ve seen the city spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cement any ‘NO’ they can legally hand out to us. When we’ve resorted to civil disobedience, we’ve experienced violent police hostility toward queers inside NYPD precincts – and toward those who challenge the parade’s hateful message. There is no remaining question about the meaning of NYPD participation in this parade,”
Gelman said.

“The police presence at the parade is a strong symbol of the antipathy we already feel from them as LGBT people,” said Eustacia Smith, a protester with Irish Queers. “Every year, the parade reminds us that, if you’re queer, it’s often safer to avoid the police than to call on them for help.”

As Irish Queers pursues a civil rights lawsuit, protest against LGBT Irish groups’ exclusion from the parade continues. “The St. Patrick's Day parade is meant to celebrate Irish American heritage in general. We will be there to visibly remind parade goers that we are a thread of Irish American culture,” said Gabrielle Cryan of Irish Queers.

A statement released yesterday by Dublin LGBT groups censured the NYC St. Patrick’s Parade Committee from abroad. “[The exclusion of LGBT people] is deeply un-Irish and something that we cannot allow to happen in the name of an event that is about celebrating Ireland's rich cultural heritage, of which the LGBT community are a corner stone here in Ireland.”

For more info: www.irishqueers.org