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: Brendan Fay (left) walks with Mayor Bloomberg in the LGBT-inclusive parade March 2, 2003 in Queens.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2003, he typically participated both in the St. Patrick's for All Parade, held in Queens, in early March, as well as the big parade held on Fifth Avenue. Bloomberg, however, has been on the record saying the gay ban was a "misguided policy" that he tried to urge organizers to change. The parade in Queens, launched in 1999 by Brendan Fay, continues to this day.

Meanwhile, Boston, which has its own traditional parade, has excluded LGBT marchers since 1992, as it is also organized by a private organization, the Allied War Veterans Council. In addition to serving its large Irish community, Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade also commemorates the day the British were run out of the city in 1776. The parade focuses largely on veterans, which made it even more difficult for LGBT people to participate in the parade, due to the military's ban on openly gay service members. The Supreme Court ruled in 1995, in Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, that gays could be excluded by organizers because it is a private event, and parades are a form of expression.

Because of this, the city also has alternative festivities, known as the St. Patrick's Peace Parade, organized by the pro-LGBT Veterans for Peace, which was specifically created to "end the last vestige of institutionalized exclusion, prejudice, bigotry, and homophobia and make this parade inclusive and welcoming to all and bring the message of peace to South Boston on St. Patrick’s Day," Autostraddle reports.

Video from this year's St. Patrick's for All Parade:

Tags: Politics