WEST BRIGHTON, Staten Island (PIX11) — Irish eyes were smiling in Staten Island Sunday as thousands celebrated their Irish heritage in the 57th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. But there were also protests and boycotts because gay, lesbian and transgender groups were once again not allowed to participate.
For at least 10 years, the Pride Center of Staten Island and other LGBTQ groups have not been allowed to march in the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade. So instead, they staged their own “Rainbow Run” along Forest Avenue the hour before the official start of the parade. They also called for an end to public funding for the parade until LGBTQ groups are allowed to march.
Carol Bullock, executive director of The Pride Center, pointed out LGBTQ groups are allowed to march in Manhattan as well as other major cities in the United States and Ireland. The larger St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan allowed LGBTQ groups to march under a banner in 2014.
“The LGBTQ community can march in Dublin, Boston, Manhattan — why not Staten Island?” Bullock said.
KC Hankins, the lead organizer of the Rainbow Run, also spoke about why they started the opposition event.
“Being gay changed nothing in my life,” Hankins said. “I am Catholic. I am Irish and I was taught to love my neighbor.”
Elected officials also boycotted the parade, including Mayor Eric Adams and several City Council members. City Comptroller Brad Lander spoke at the Pride Center news conference Sunday morning.
“We should not be using tax dollars to provide public accommodation for an event that discriminates,” Lander said.
Meanwhile, for the thousands who marched and lined the parade route this year, some said they agreed with the parade organizers excluding LGBTQ groups but others, including Randy Santucci, said they were just there to have a good time.
“It’s all about family today,” Santucci told PIX11 News. “The sun came out. It’s the luck of the Irish, the rain stopped, we’re here to party.”