Despite controversy, Philly Pride celebrates history and the advance of LGBT rights

Nellie Fitzpatrick

Nellie Fitzpatrick

Philadelphia’s Pride Parade is this Sunday, and it will commemorate one of the most important events in the history of the fight for LGBT rights.

The 1969 Stonewall riots, which were violent demonstrations against a police raid of the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1969, helped catapult the fight for LGBT rights toward where it is today.

With this in mind, some members of the area’s LGBT community were surprised to learn that the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL), an organization of LGBT police and other first responders, was named among this year’s Grand Marshals for Philly Pride.

“What I think is important to remember here is the LGBT community is an extremely diverse community,” Nellie Fitzpatrick, Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs for Philadelphia, said. “Of course, none of us — at least, if you haven’t been living under a rock — are unaware of the larger issues with policing.

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“So I think that the folks who have expressed concerns about that and, specifically, within the context of policing and the LGBT or queer communities, their views and feelings are valid,” she added.”

The backlash to GOAL being added was swift. A petition was circulated opposing the honor which led to a meeting of Philly Pride coordinators and community members. Ultimately, GOAL declined the award to avoid any  controversy. Fitzpatrick took part in the meeting leading up to the decision.

“I can’t necessarily speak to the exact decision that the GOAL officers made to decline the award,” Fitzpatrick said, “but I do know that they did it with a great deal of thought.”

Fitzpatrick says that her office will continue to work with GOAL to help broker a better relationship between the police and Philadelphia’s LGBT community. She says that it’s more about simply giving an award, but it is about changing the culture.

“A culture in which LGBT people are equally and safely served by the police force and within our criminal legal systems,” she said. “I would like to see an award where folks are safe; where cases are thoroughly investigated; where crimes against transgender people — especially transgender women of color — drop, and where we see opportunities where young LGBT people want to join the police department and be a part of Philly’s finest, and maybe they’ll be the ones responding to cries for help.”

For more of Nellie Fitzpatrick talking about Philly Pride weekend, including her thoughts on the Mummers’ involvement, press play at the top of the page.

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