A Brief History of Gays and the St. Patrick's Day Parade

New York and Boston may not see eye-to-eye on everything, but the organizers of their traditional St. Patrick's Day Parades have a long history of excluding LGBT marchers.

BY Michelle Garcia

March 17 2014 3:00 AM ET

Above: Lesbians and gays march up Fifth Avenue in 1993

New York City Mayor David Dinkins passed on an offer to lead the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1991, deciding rather to march with LGBT Irish people, who had initially been denied entry into the parade until Dinkins intervened. Nonetheless, that group was booed for the entire 40 blocks. People on the sidelines hurled epithets and even beer cans at them, which Dinkins dodged with an umbrella. Two men were later arrested for throwing the cans.

"Every time I hear someone boo, it strengthens my resolve that it was the right thing to do," Dinkins told the Associated Press.

New York's Cardinal John O'Connor, who was known for being antigay, said he asked Catholics not to be violent during the march.

"That's not what we're about," he said, according to The New York Times. "We don't return disrespect with disrespect."

Meanwhile, Gov. Mario Cuomo also opted not to march at the front of the line, instead joining a group of children in wheelchairs who were initially denied space to march.

The following year, Dinkins, Cuomo, and other political colleagues boycotted the 1992 parade because of the antigay exclusion. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, the "oldest and largest Roman Catholic organization in the United States," argued in federal court that it had the right to bar LGBT participants from the parade. The argument held up in court, after months of legal debate.

As a result, about 400 protesters lined the streets to counter the 150,000-strong throngs of Irish marchers. One protester held a sign reading, "My Irish eyes are bright and gay, but they are not smiling." Another sign read, "Gay, Irish and Proud," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Video from that parade:

St Patrick's Day Parade, NYC 1991-1992 from Lisa Guido on Vimeo.

Tags: Politics

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