Commissioner William Bratton
New York City Police Department
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY 10007
By email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By fax to: (646) 610-8795
Commissioner Salvatore Cassano
New York City Fire Department
9 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
By email to: email@example.com
By fax to: 718-999-0033
Feb. 20, 2014
Dear Commissioner Bratton and Commissioner Cassano,
As you know, the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade has excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified groups and individuals since 1991. The parade’s avowed bigotry has been a constant source of pain and protest for the LGBTQ community. After the NYC Human Rights Commission found in 1992 that a public parade could not discri minate, the parade organizers set out to preserve their bigoted message by recasting the parade as an act of “private, religious” speech. They have endowed the parade with a clear and deliberate anti-gay message, affirmed first in court in 1993, and every year subsequently in response to inquiries from media and elected officials.
The homophobic message of the parade is so indisputable that Mayor de Blasio has said he will not march, and several leading government ministers in Ireland have announced that they can no longer justify Irish government participation in the parade, and support a boycott.
We recognize that the parade organizers have established a legal right to the exclusionary procession they have characterized as private, religious, and anti-gay. However, New York City Human Rights Law prohibits the City from approving or joining in such discrimination. Accordingly, we ask that you uphold City law by taking immediate action to prohibit uniformed NYPD and FDNY officers from marching in the parade, and to prohibit use of departmental resources for organizing participation in the parade.
The parade is so intrinsically, essentially homophobic that the presence of identifiable LGBTQ people – whether an Irish LGBTQ cultural group marching with a banner bearing the group’s name, or an individual identified in any way as a non-straight person – is rejected by organizers as anathema to the parade’s message.
Yet uniformed officers of the NYPD and FDNY are a main feature of the parade, marching in their thousands every year. They march with top brass of both departments. They march in dozens of departmentally sanctioned contingents, both official and fraternal. They march early in the parade line-up, in spots reserved for groups who hold close relationships with the parade organizers. The meaning we receive is clear: the NYPD and FDNY support the parade’s religious, anti-gay message, and the parade’s injury to the LGBTQ community is not deemed important.
This official endorsement of one of the country’s largest displays of homophobia has annually compounded the discrimination and bigotry many LGBTQ people have experienced in dealings with the NYPD, and it resonates with ongoing allegations of discrimination plaguing the FDNY. Those of us who have protested the parade’s anti-gay message over the last two decades have had particular confirmation of NYPD and FDNY members’ homophobia as they have marched past us shouting anti-gay slogans – or as police have arrested protesters while shouting epithets and worse. These instances are impossible to accept as individual behavior of “bad apples” while both departments are so thoroughly embedded in the parade.
In the broader LGBTQ community, and in other communities with histories of police discrimination in particular, witnessing the NYPD’s enthusiastic participation in this bigoted parade exacerbates the fear that the police are not interested in serving all of us. The consequence to a vulnerable community arising from the appearance that a city’s uniformed services endorse a message of bigotry has been eloquently described by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Pappas v. Giuliani, 290 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2002):
“The effectiveness of a city's police department depends importantly on the respect and trust of the community and on the perception in the community that it enforces the law fairly, even-handedly, and without bias. If the police department treats a segment of the population of any race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual preference, etc., with contempt, so that the particular minority comes to regard the police as oppressor rather than protector, respect for law enforcement is eroded and the ability of the police to do its work in that community is impaired.”
For both the NYPD and FDNY, the annual insistence on marching – over the outcry of communities they’re sworn to serve – deepens mistrust in the City’s commitment to its own human rights law. Individual officers in their private capacities may have the right to participate in such events, but the NYPD and FDNY must withdraw their official imprimatur from the parade.
We ask the courtesy of a response before February 26th, 2014. Please reply to the address below.
Attached please find this group’s letter to Mayor de Blasio, signed by over 200 New York City community organizations, public officials, community activists, and civil rights attorneys.
John Francis Mulligan
for the Ad Hoc Committee To Ban NYPD & FDNY Participation in Discriminatory Parades
Please direct your reply to:
Alan Levine, Esq.
99 Hudson St. 14th Fl, 10013
Tel: (212) 739-7506 // Fax: (212) 431-4276