Being frank

Barney Frank blasts NYC Pride for barring uniformed police

Barney Frank
Barney Frank (Photo: YouTube)

Former Democratic congressman Barney Frank has blasted the organizers of NYC Pride for barring uniformed police from participating in this year’s events, accusing them of “gay-on-gay bashing” and “bigotry”.

Writing an opinion piece for The Hill, Frank, 81, strongly criticized the decision.

“Having gotten used to Pride parades being occasions when the broad community can come together in an atmosphere of complete mutual respect, I was very disappointed at the injection of bigotry that has marred this season.

“I am referring to the decision of the organizers of the New York march to demonize some of the most courageous and effective opponents of homophobia in our community — the LGBT police officers who have combatted prejudice in places where it was deep-rooted.”

According to Frank, who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013, the ban goes against one of the guiding principles of Pride: “that people should be treated as individuals based on their behavior, and not on some prejudice against the category to which they belong.

“I am somewhat comforted by knowing that those who have made this decision speak for a small minority of the LGBT community. But that very fact underlines the danger of letting our agenda be dictated by deferring to the small minorities within our ranks who compete with each other in a purer-than-thou contest.”

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He then goes on to speak about several LGBTQ police officers he has known, some of whom he says helped change attitudes within the police through advocacy or legal challenges.

Frank, who publicly came out as gay in 1987, dismisses the claim that cops on Pride marches can trigger trauma or anxiety in other participants.

“I do not deny that some wholly irrational fears exist; I do object to letting those who suffer from such fears dictate to the rest of us with whom we can associate.”

He ends by saying lumping all police in together is counterproductive to reforming police practices.

“Collective punishment that puts heroes and villains in the same category is flat out wrong on three fundamental counts. It is a blatant violation of the principle of fairness at the center of our struggle; it is a distorted picture of the reality which we have worked to present; and it is counterproductive to inform people in positions of some authority that they are guilty by definition — no matter how hard they fight on our side.”

NYPD police officers providing security at NYC Pride in 2017
NYPD police officers providing security at NYC Pride in 2017 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Heritage of Pride, which organized NYC Pride events, announced its ban in mid-May.

It released a statement outlining its reasons. It said, “NYC Pride seeks to create safer spaces for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities at a time when violence against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC and trans communities, has continued to escalate. The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason.”

The ban was not universally supported. A week after the decision was announced, Heritage of Pride members voted to allow police to march in uniform and carry concealed weapons.

Within hours, Heritage of Pride’s board had again reversed the decision, barring uniformed police from events.

This year’s main NYC parade will not be going ahead, but several smaller events are planned, and the police ban is not set to be reviewed until 2025.

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NYC Pride is not the first Pride event to ban uniformed police. Toronto Pride in Canada has banned uniformed police from 2017 onwards, while Vancouver Pride followed suit in 2020. In the US, Denver Pride also announced it was implementing a police ban this year.

Over the weekend, it emerged that cops banned from wearing uniform at NYC Pride, would be welcome to attend Long Island Pride later this month. Newsday says organizers of Long Island Pride will also be donating a table to Nassau County Police to allow it to recruit at the festival. The event, down-scaled because of the pandemic, will take place on June 27.