LGBTQ Community Divided After GOAL Steps Down as Pride Marshals

The controversy over the year-old LGBT police group continues.

Image of crest via GOAL official Facebook page.

Image of crest via GOAL Facebook page.

Amid a controversy that has been brewing since April, the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL) announced Friday that it was withdrawing as one of the grand marshals of this year’s Philly Pride parade. “GOAL will not accept this honor until the community, loudly and proudly, decides we have earned it,” said Jo Mason, president of GOAL, in an official statement. “But rest assured, we will be there June 12th, as LGBT community members, and we will be there for the weeks, months, and years to come, listening, and working, for the betterment of all of us.”

As previously reported on G Philly, the choice of GOAL as one of two group grand marshals came under fire from two camps, one holding that the year-old organization did not deserve the honor because it had not yet demonstrated a lasting impact on the community, and the other claiming that the inclusion of a law-enforcement organization was “antithetical to the spirit and history of Pride.” In addition, the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club sent a letter last Tuesday urging Philly Pride to reconsider GOAL as grand marshals because they “believe the timing of the invitation to GOAL is insensitive, at best, to recent events around the nation that rightfully underscore the fears felt by many minority communities, including the LGBT community, in the presence of law enforcement.”

Since GOAL’s withdrawal, members of the community have been divided over whether the decision was just. Some GOAL supporters say they believe that those who called for the organization to step down are against law enforcement and out officers serving. “It is very unfortunate that there are those in the GLBT community that dislike law enforcement and GLBT law enforcement specifically,” wrote Anthony Imperioso, a member of New England GOAL, on GOAL’s Facebook page. “It is these actions that only divide us as a community.” Community activist J Nathan Bazzel has started a Facebook group, “Friends of Greater Philly GOAL”, to encourage members to wear blue at the June 12th Pride parade and change their Facebook profile picture to the crest of GOAL.

Some opponents, however, say that they are not anti-police, but believe GOAL did not acquit itself well at a community meeting at the William Way LGBT Community Center on May 25th that was meant to clear the air over its appointment. Attendees who said they came with an open mind were disappointed when GOAL members acknowledged that they were not aware of statistics on police interaction with LGBTQ people of color or of certain specific cases of police misconduct, and that the group did not address police brutality and abuse during its opening remarks. “That was really the nail in coffin,” said a Philly Pride volunteer who asked not to be named. “I think after that interaction, they knew they had to go.”

“There are things that came up in the Wednesday night meeting that [GOAL was] unaware of,” wrote Lee Carson, another meeting attendee, in reply to GOAL’s Facebook announcement. “This is how GOAL can begin to demonstrate that they are indeed invested in making things better when it comes to how police interact with LGBT citizens.”

Event organizer Philly Pride Presents has not said whether another organization will be chosen as a replacement for GOAL. A group of LGBT city employees will serve as the parade’s other grand marshals as previously planned.