By Jano Tantongco
The annual Long Island Pride parade through Huntington village has been cancelled by its organizer, the LGBT Network.
“This need for more capacity in order to maintain order and safety is the major reason why this year’s parade is not taking place,” read a statement published on the organization’s website. “The LGBT Network has made the decision to put the parade on-hold for one year in order to build the capacity to ensure that L.I. Pride can be held with the support it needs to ensure the safety of all involved.”
In past years, the parade marched down Park Avenue and Main Street in Huntington village, ending at Heckscher Park for a festival. This year’s festival is still scheduled to take place on June 11 in Heckscher Park.
However, a wave of backlash has emerged from the local LGBT community prompting formation of a new group, the Long Island LGBTQA+ Visibility Coalition. The group seeks to to boycott the L.I. Pride festival, and host an alternative Walk For Visibility in Sayville to be held the day after the festival, according to community organizer Erinn Furey.
In an interview Monday, she said the Huntington parade has a “rich history,” including a court battle with the Town of Huntington in 1991 to secure a parade permit.
Now, she said, the event has been subverted in favor of commercial interests. Furey added that since the LGBT Network took over the parade, the organization has made several changes that morphed it into “quite a monetized event.”
Among these changes include changing the date to a Saturday from a Sunday to allow for the sale of alcohol, and shortening the route of the parade. She claims the parade does not bring in money for the organization.
Furey added that she and other organizers have appealed to the organization for years to change the event back to “Sunday when working class LGBT people may have off and can attend.
Furey, a social worker and director of student affairs for Pace University’s LGBT Center, said the parade was originally organized by grassroots activists back in 1991. Back then, the Town of Huntington denied the organizers’ initial permit, citing that only “traditional” parades were allowed, according to The Long-Islander.
Tom Verni, retired member of the New York City Police Department with 22 years of experience as a detective LGBT Community Liaison for the department, has previously volunteered with the network for over two decades.
He’s attended the Huntington event in the past and was shocked that the network had called off the parade. He recounted that the first organizers had to “fight tooth and nail” to get the parade off the ground.
“It’s kind of flying in the face of everything that the agency should be doing. It’s supposed to be a social justice agency,” he said. “They had to go out and make a new march because the organization that’s supposed to be organizing the annual march is choosing not to because it’s not profitable for them is basically what it comes down to.”
Upon hearing the news that the parade was cancelled, Furey posted on the network’s Facebook page on March 24, expressing her anger.
“They will only hold the festival! Why would they want any other groups but their own on display?” Furey’s post read. “You will not erase #LGBTQyouth, #transgender folks, #peopleofcolor and others. Consider this your warning.”
After this, LGBT Network Social Media Manager Adam Lombardi filed a report with Suffolk Police, which deployed its hate crime unit, according to Det. Sgt. Debora Gagliano, the unit’s commanding officer.
“They were concerned,” Gagliano said, adding that detectives ultimately determined that Furey did not pose a threat, and that no crime was committed.
“There was no hate crime,” Gagliano said. “It’s freedom of speech at that point.”