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.



Above: New York City Police carry a protester to a police truck after she was arrested during the 1997 parade

In his last years as mayor, Dinkins attempted to rescind power from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but was unsuccessful in doing so. When Republican mayoral contender Rudy Giuliani ran for office in 1993, he decided to march in the parade, and 228 LGBT protesters were arrested. When Giuliani took office in 1994, he continued the tradition of the mayor participating in the parade, despite the gay ban.

The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization made continuous legal challenges to the ban, even reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in 1995 that parade organizers had a right to the freedom of speech, since parades are a form of expression.

As LGBT people continued to be shut out of the parade, protests only became nearly as predictable as the parade itself. In 1997 about three dozen demonstrators with ILGO were arrested as the parade held a moment of silence to memorialize the millions who died in Ireland due to the potato famine 150 years prior.

The following year, even the New York Gay Officers Action League, a police group, was excluded from the parade.

In 2000, outgoing first lady and New York challenger for the U.S. Senate Hillary Clinton participated in the parade after months of debate. The following year, however, Senator Clinton marched in the Syracuse St. Patrick's Day Parade, where LGBT participants were welcome.

Tags: Politics