Tag Archives: st. patrick’s day parade

Gay veterans: We’ve been denied spot in St. Patrick’s parade

A gay veterans group says it has been denied permission to march in this year’s Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade just two years after organizers made the groundbreaking decision to allow gay groups to participate for the first time.

The veterans group, OutVets, said on its Facebook page that the reason for the denial is unclear, but “one can only assume it’s because we are LGBTQ.”

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s organizer, drew immediate condemnation from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who said he would not participate in this year’s parade, scheduled for March 19, unless the council reversed course.

“I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form,” he said in a statement. “We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city.”

Democratic State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, whose district includes South Boston, asked the council to reconsider its decision.

The vote left OutVets leadership stunned.

“It’s disgusting and disgraceful that they would do this to their own, because we are veterans like them,” said Bryan Bishop, an Air Force veteran who founded OutVets.

The council gave no reason for its 9-4 vote, Bishop said.

Emails and phone messages seeking comment from the council on the reasoning were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Ed Flynn, a member of the council, said he voted to allow OutVets to participate in the parade through the largely Irish-American neighborhood, which in the past has drawn as many as one million spectators.

“I am saddened and outraged that the Allied War Veterans Council has voted to turn back the clock on equality,” he said in a statement, adding that he will ask the council to reconsider the vote.

OutVets has gone out of its way to conform with the parade’s code of conduct the last two years, Bishop said. “If we did break any rules, we were never informed,” he said. The only issue OutVets had with parade organizers was over use of their rainbow flag, he said. That issue was resolved.

Bishop said he heard rumblings that OutVets would be barred from this year’s parade as far back as November when Brian Mahoney, the former commander of the veterans’ council, died.

Mahoney had been firmly in OutVets corner.

“The only thing I can assume is that with Brian no longer there to beat the drum for us they had enough support to put us out,” Bishop said.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council for decades fought legal battles to keep gay organizations out, even winning a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995 backing their right to bar gay groups.

“This is a black eye on South Boston,” Bishop said. “This is not who we are as Bostonians.”


NY mayor to march in St. Pat’s parade after LGBT ban dropped

Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending a two-year boycott of the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade now that it has fully dropped its longstanding ban on allowing LGBT groups to march under their own banners.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, told The Associated Press that for the first time he will take part in the parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. He skipped the parade in 2014, when no gay groups were allowed to openly march, and he skipped again last year, when only one small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group was permitted.

“The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” de Blasio told the AP. “Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

This year, more than 300 people will march under the banner of the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group that had worked for 25 years to reverse the ban and, when those efforts stalled, founded a competing parade, called St. Patrick’s For All, which marches every year in Queens and allows all groups to participate.

“Our hearts will be dancing,” said Brendan Fay, the head of the group.

Fay gave credit to de Blasio, who was the first mayor in more than 20 years to refuse to participate in the Manhattan parade, saying his boycott put pressure on the parade’s organizers to change their policies. A year ago, organizers allowed OUT(at)NBCUniversal, a gay organization at NBC, which televises the festivities, to participate, but de Blasio and several other elected officials said that wasn’t enough and continued to abstain from participating in the 255-year-old march.

“It wasn’t truly inclusive until it included an Irish gay group,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democratic member of the City Council’s Irish and LGBT caucuses. “This allows us to express, in full, who we really are. When you’ve been excluded for something for so long, when you finally realize your dream is coming true, it’s very emotional.”

Dromm will be joined by several members of the City Council, including its speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who also boycotted the last two years. Aides to de Blasio said he would march in the first portion of the parade with police officers, firefighters and other members of the city’s uniformed services and then spend some of the parade under the Lavendar and Green Alliance’s banner.

It’s customary for the groups marching, some of whom have been participating for decades, to proceed in the same order, with new groups relegated to the end. But parade organizers said the new gay group would not be placed at the end of the lineup.

“We want this to be our most inclusive parade ever,” said John Lahey, chairman of the parade. “We hope that it will bring New Yorkers from all backgrounds together in a way that maybe our previous parades didn’t.”

Lahey, who also is the president of Quinnipiac University, said that no groups dropped out this year after the decision to include the gay organizations, though some had complained the previous year when OUT(at)NBCUniversal was allowed.

But some longtime parade participants condemned the changes.

“The mayor is a disgrace who bullied everyone to having the type of parade that he wanted,” said Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, who stopped marching a year ago over the decision to allow LGBT banners. “They are making this just an Irish parade, not a Catholic parade. It’s contemptible.”

This year’s parade, which will mark the 100th anniversary of an insurrection that led to Ireland’s independence, will feature former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as grand marshal. Mitchell, a Democrat and a primary architect of 1998’s Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, had told organizers he would not participate if LGBT groups were not permitted.


Gay group is in, Catholic League is out of NYC St. Pat’s Parade

The Catholic League says it will sit out next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York because event organizers aren’t letting an anti-abortion group march.

The group, formally known as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has been marching for 20 years, said its president, Bill Donohue.

Its announcement was the latest development in a long-running battle over who can take part in the nation’s oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

After years of refusing to allow gay groups to march under their own banner, parade organizers said earlier this summer that OUT(at)NBCUniversal, an LGBT resource group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would march.

Parade organizers said including the NBC group was meant as a “gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community.”

But gay activists have called that a token gesture. A group called Irish Queers said at a news conference this week that they should be included, and that OUT(at)NBCUniversal members should not march until the parade is opened up more broadly to gay organizations.

Organizers countered that the 2015 parade was already full. They said the Irish Queers group could apply for a spot in the 2016 parade.

Donohue, meanwhile, said parade organizers had promised him that if a gay group could march under its own banner, a Catholic anti-abortion group would be included also.

“Now I am being told that the list of marching units is set and that no pro-life group will march in next year’s parade,” he said. “Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation.”

Parade spokesman Bill O’Reilly called Donohue’s decision disappointing. He added, “The Catholic League is always welcome in the parade.”

LGBT group to march in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

Organizers of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade will lift a ban and allow a gay group to march under its banner in the New York City event in 2015.

The announcement comes in a year that saw the boycott of the parade in Manhattan grow to include Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Guinness beer also dropped its sponsorship in March.

The Associated Press reported that the parade committee released a statement that said Out@NBCUniversal would march next St. Patrick’s Day under its banner. The group is an LGBT affinity group with NBCUniversal.

An executive with NBCUniversal said the group had applied but he didn’t know why parade organizers decided to lift the ban and allow the members to march under their banner.

In prior parades, organizers said LGBT groups could participate in the event but not identify as LGBT.

The parade is presented by organizers affiliated with the Catholic church. Next year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the grand marshal.

“The decision by the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to open the parade to LGBT groups is an important step forward in the fight to ensure equal justice and opportunity for all New Yorkers,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Next March, by taking the simple step of marching alongside their fellow St. Patrick’s Day celebrants, the members of OUT@NBCUniversal will be sending a powerful message. I congratulate the organizers of the parade for taking a strong first step forward in the fight for justice and equality. I also want to applaud OUT@NBCUniversal for standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers.  I look forward to next year’s parade, which will serve as the latest example of New York leading the way in equality.”

At the Human Rights Campaign, Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Foundation’s religion and faith program, said, “We are pleased that the changes proposed by the parade committee will finally make it possible for LGBT Americans — including Irish Catholic LGBT Americans — to officially march under their own banners. The discriminatory ban has been shameful, particularly in the very city where the LGBT rights movement got its start 45 years ago at the Stonewall Inn.”

She added, “Hopefully, today’s developments will lead to full inclusion of LGBT groups in the New York parade, and encourage parade organizers in other cities like Boston to follow suit and end their discrimination.”

Meanwhile, at the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s statewide LGBT civil rights group, there was disappointment. The executive director Nathan M. Schaefer called the decision “disappointing and self-serving. While this development is long overdue, inviting one group to march at the exclusion of all others and continuing to refer to our vibrant community as ‘gay’ when it is in fact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, is a far stretch from the full inclusion we deserve.”

He continued, “For more than 20 years, the LGBT and allied community have been calling for the organizers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade to allow LGBT people to celebrate both their Irish and LGBT pride by welcoming and including LGBT groups among its participants. We commended Mayor de Blasio, the New York City Council and sponsors like Guinness for standing with our community by refusing to march or participate in this year’s parade, which set the stage for the organizers to rethink their discriminatory practices and to make this initial step in the right direction. The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade stand alone in its continued exclusion of LGBT participants while business and political leaders stand on the side of LGBT equality and inclusion.”

Schaefer called on “all leaders, community members and allies to demand that the organizers go even further. We call on them to take a bolder stand for inclusion by welcoming other groups that truly represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Irish Americans to march in 2015.

“New York is known for its diversity and inclusive spirit. Discrimination against LGBT people in New York City is illegal, and we’re proud to host the country’s largest LGBT pride parade down the very same street, in fact, on which we’re denied participation each March. We must continue the momentum from this small step in the right direction and call for full equality not tomorrow, but today.”

Anti-gay rule to keep de Blasio from biggest NYC St. Pat’s parade

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will not be marching in the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, deciding to skip one of his city’s signature celebrations because the event organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs.

De Blasio will become the first New York City mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march along Fifth Avenue.

“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,” said de Blasio on Tuesday during an unrelated press conference at City Hall. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”

The parade, a tradition that predates the city itself, draws more than 1 million people each March 17 to line one of Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfares to watch about 200,000 participants. It has long been a mandatory stop on the city’s political trail, and will include marching bands, traditional Irish dancers and thousands of uniformed city workers.

Since the 1990s, the event’s ban on pro-gay signs and banners has spurred protests and litigation and led to the creation of an alternative, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens. In recent years, several elected officials – including de Blasio when he was public advocate – attended the inclusive parade and boycotted the traditional parade.

Though de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage rights, he still marched in the Fifth Avenue parade all 12 years he was in office. Rudolph Giuliani also participated every year he was mayor.

The parade dates from 1762, more than a century before the five boroughs linked to form modern New York City. It is run by a private organization, and judges have said the organizers have a First Amendment right to choose participants in their event. Groups, such as colleges or firefighter groups that march, can identify themselves but LGBT groups cannot.

A request for comment from the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee was not immediately returned. Organizers have previously said that the event is simply a celebration of the city’s strong Irish heritage and that gays are welcome to march in the parade as long as they do not carry identifying signs or banners.

The president of the city’s Catholic League said that to his knowledge this was the first time a sitting mayor had boycotted the parade.

“Personally, I am delighted,” said Bill Donohue. “I lead the Catholic League contingent every year, and I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics.”

De Blasio was raised Catholic but has said he does not belong to any church.

The mayor, a Democrat, also said Tuesday that he won’t heed activists’ call to ban city workers from marching while wearing their uniforms.

Several elected officials, including Public Advocate Letitia James, signed a petition released Tuesday that suggested that because members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community could not sport anything to identify themselves, the city workers should also not wear anything to proclaim who they are.

“I believe uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right,” de Blasio said.

Thousands of uniformed workers – from the police, fire, corrections and sanitation departments – march in the parade every year. The parade’s grand marshal this year is Jack Ahearn, the head of a local operating engineers union.

Christine Quinn to skip St. Patrick’s Day parade that excludes Pride messages

She’s a leading candidate to be New York’s next mayor. She’s already one of its top Irish-American officials.

Christine Quinn is also a lesbian and proud of it. And that’s why the city council speaker won’t be marching in today’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an event so entrenched in New York tradition that it’s older than the United States.

Quinn’s rising political prominence is bringing a decades-long dispute between parade organizers and gay activists back into sharp relief. And it’s raising the prospect of an unprecedented standoff next year if she wins November’s election and becomes the city’s first openly gay and first female mayor.

Quinn, a granddaughter of Irish immigrants, says she’s both saddened and mystified that the parade continues to bar marchers from displaying any gay-pride messages, a policy that has spurred protests and litigation going back to the 1990s. It has even prompted the launch of an alternative, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s parade.

“I’ve marched in Dublin (in its St. Patrick’s Day parade) with visibly identifiable stickers and buttons that made clear we were both Irish and LGBT,” she said this week. “If you can do that in Dublin, in God’s name, why can’t you do it on Fifth Avenue?”

Organizers say signs or buttons celebrating being gay would detract from the parade’s focus on honoring Irish heritage. But gay people do march in the parade and are welcome, said Hilary Beirne, the parade’s executive secretary.

“It’s a shame that an issue is made of something that really is a non-issue,” he said in an email message.

Dating to 1762, the parade has become a customary link in the city’s political trail. This year’s grand marshal is a scion of the Irish-American political pantheon: Alfred E. Smith IV, whose great-grandfather and namesake was a four-time New York governor and a presidential candidate.

Irish gay advocates sued in the early 1990s, after parade organizers refused to let them march with an identifying banner. Judges said the organizers had a First Amendment right to choose participants in their event. In the years since, gay activists have protested along the parade route.

Quinn, a former director of a gay and lesbian advocacy group, has never marched in the Fifth Avenue parade in her official capacity, although she attended it as a child, according to her office. She was elected to the City Council in 1999.

Her schedule for today hasn’t been set. She’s due next week to host the council’s own tribute to Irish culture, with honorees including actor Liam Neeson.

Democratic mayoral candidates Sal Albanese, a former councilman; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; and Comptroller John Liu also are boycotting the parade over its policy toward gay marchers. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry on the issue.

Some Republican mayoral hopefuls will be in the ranks, including former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joseph Lhota and George McDonald, who heads an organization that helps the homeless. Both candidates have some Irish forebears, aides said.

“As he does every year, George McDonald is proud to celebrate his Irish heritage and the great tradition that is the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade,” spokesman David Catalfamo said. Aides to Republican candidates Tom Allon and John Catsimatidis didn’t immediately respond to inquiries.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also is due to participate, though he has said the organizers should change their stance on gay marchers.

“My job as mayor nevertheless is to attend these parades, and I will continue to attend them – at the same time, while I am working as hard as I can to get the parade organizers to change,” he said in 2011 .

Bloomberg, Quinn and other officials have become regulars at the St. Pat’s For All parade, which happens in Queens and began in 2000 as an inclusive answer to the Fifth Avenue procession. About 2,000 people marched in this year’s St. Pat’s For All, founder Brendan Fay said.

“We’re redefining the meaning of Irishness,” said Fay, a documentary filmmaker who grew up Drogheda, an Irish port town about 35 miles north of Dublin.

Quinn said she’d be proud if her role in government helped resolve the dispute over the Fifth Avenue parade someday.

“To me, it is a very sad thing that so many other issues around LGBT issues – so many other complicated, complex, emotional issues – we have been able to make progress on … but we are not able to come to a resolution on this,” said Quinn, who married her longtime partner last year after lobbying to legalize gay marriage in the state.

“But I have to believe that sooner rather than later, we will be able to put this issue behind us.”