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Rockland revokes LGBTQ activists’ induction into human rights hall of fame after dust-up at ceremony, then reinstates him days later

A fracas breaks out at a Human Rights Award ceremony.

No, that’s not the start of a cynical joke, it’s what happened when Joseph M. Coe was being inducted into the Rockland County Civil and Human Rights Hall of Fame for his LGBTQ activism on Feb. 12.

Jospeh M. Coe speaks at the Coe’s induction into the Rockland County Civil and Human Rights Hall of Fame for his LGBTQ activism on Feb. 12.

Coe’s induction at an event featuring Martin Luther King III and Rep. Mike Lawler, R-NY, as speakers was revoked, according to a letter from the Rockland County Commission on Human Rights, due to Coe’s “behavior both during the induction ceremony, and following.”

But that decision was reversed Monday, LodHud reports, “after a weekend filled with animosity about it.”

Though the county’s letter rescinding the honor does not detail the “behavior” in question, News 12 reports that Coe’s acceptance speech went on for about 10 minutes after he and others were given two minutes each to speak, and that the emcee took the microphone from him.

“I chose to speak longer than that,” Coe told Nyack News and Views.

Coe, who is now the youngest and first openly gay man inducted to the Hall of Fame, according to LoHud, says he and other honorees were notified they had been selected only a week before the ceremony and were given no guidelines on speech length. At one point, Coe said, it seemed like inductees weren’t going to be permitted to speak at all, a departure from similar events in the past.

Upon receiving the award, Coe said his remarks would go on for more than two minutes and to please not interrupt him. That request was denied, he said, and organizers hounded him to stop speaking four or five times before the microphone “was forcefully grabbed from the podium.”

Being given two minutes to receive an award for a lifetime of work on human rights seemed woefully insufficient, Coe said.

“It felt very disrespectful to the work that we’ve done.”

“I’m not leaving unless I’m done,” Coe told the emcee as she approached, according to News 12, which included video of the incident. Coe can be heard calling the event “a sham” as he storms off.

Coe agreed to apologize for his role in the way things unfolded as part of an agreement to be reinstated.

His letter explained that he had been talking about past traumas in remarks he’d “labored over for a week” in order “to accurately paint the picture of how many people from various backgrounds and perspectives helped me create the change that I was in part being honored for.”

“To then be re-victimized by the same community I was seemingly being honored by was really disappointing,” Coe told Nyack News and Views.

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