Out New York City council head boycotts St. Pat's parade
March 18 2006 12:00 AM ET
will attend several breakfasts before New York City's St.
Patrick's Day parade today, along with Mass at St. Patrick's
Cathedral, but the city's first openly gay city
council leader will not join the 150,000 marchers on
Fifth Avenue after organizers rejected compromise
attempts and barred Irish gays and lesbians from joining the
festivities for the 16th straight year.
"I can't deny who I am on any given day," said
Quinn, who was arrested in 1999 for protesting at an
exclusionary parade in the Bronx. Quinn, who took
office in January, said attempts at brokering a deal with
the Ancient Order of Hibernians for the 245th parade fell through.
The city's Irish gays had long hoped to march
behind their own banner, like other groups, although
Quinn said they were willing to walk with the city
council as a unified group. "There were conversations back
and forth," Quinn said. "There were moments where I
was hopeful that we could have come to some agreement.
But that didn't happen."
John Dunleavy, chairman of the parade, told
The New York Times in Friday's editions
that Quinn "is more than welcome to march as the
leader of the city council, but no buttons or
decorations in any shape or form."
The decision came as no surprise to gay activist
Brendan Fay, who has spent the past 16 years in the
thick of the fight to march and then each subsequent
March 17 watching the nation's oldest and largest parade
from the sidewalk. "You know the song—`When
Irish eyes are smiling, all the world seems bright and
gay,'" Fay said. "Well, not on Fifth Avenue."
The fight to let Irish gays march under their
own banner dates to 1991, when parade organizers first
rejected an application from the Irish Lesbian and Gay
Organization. The organizers said they wanted to keep
politics out of the event.
Instead, 35 ILGO members marched with a
Manhattan division of the Hibernians and then-mayor
David Dinkins. The group was sprayed with beer and
insults as it walked up Fifth Avenue.
That was its last appearance in the parade,
which draws up to 2 million spectators. Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, who will march Friday, again urged the
Hibernian order to change its stance regarding the gay
contingent. "I've always believed this is a city where all
the parades should be open to everybody, and
orientation, gender...should not be the deciding
thing," Bloomberg said. The mayor marched earlier this
month in the inclusive Queens St. Patrick's Day parade,
which was launched by Fay this year.
Besides the Irish gays, the organizers barred
another advocacy group from marching this year: the
Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which lobbies on
behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United
States. Fay said the seemingly endless battle for
inclusion gets exasperating. "I sometimes joke there
will be a peace brokered on the streets of Belfast
faster than between the Irish on Fifth Avenue," Fay said.
But Quinn said she was optimistic about the 2007
parade. "I've only been speaker for 10 weeks," she
said, "so now we have 12 months to try to figure this
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