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 2:00 AM ET

This year in Boston, talks between the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston and MassEquality broke down over whether the parade would include openly LGBT veterans. Organizers for the parade initially said LGBT veterans would be allowed to march in the annual tradition, after years of LGBT participants being shut out due to a "no sexual orientation rule." However, the question of whether participants could display signs or shirts that identified them as LGBT was a major sticking point.

Then, days later, officials with the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, said they were misled by LGBT Veterans of Equality, which is a subgroup of MassEquality. Parade organizers claimed that MassEquality misrepresented the number of actual LGBT veterans participating, so they could not take part in the event.

Kara Coredini of MassEquality said her organization had in fact worked with numerous veterans to end the military's ban on openly gay service members, "and those same veterans would have been proud to represent the end of the parade’s 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy."

"We know from experience that change comes through conversation and dialogue," Coredini said. "We were encouraged to have an historic opportunity to meet face-to-face with parade organizers to discuss a contingent involving LGBT veterans, and we did so with open hearts and open minds."

New York might have the largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the world, but in Dublin, Ireland, the parade actually has been quite inclusive to LGBT participants. Richard Conway, an Irish transplant to New York, wrote in 2012 that his new city practiced "outmoded" bigotry. Modern Ireland, he says, is accepting of LGBT people, and most Irish people — as in, people who live Ireland — agree that same-sex marriage should be legal. Because of that, Dublin's parade has regularly included gay-themed floats while organizers of New York's parade say there's a "don't ask, don't tell" policy; gays can participate as long as they don't signal their sexual orientation to onlookers.

So, years later, the protests in New York continue. And to continue the tradition of Democratic mayors who don't support the antigay policies of the parade, new mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not participate in the parade, a practice he has followed, even as a public advocate for the city.

This Monday, Irish Queers has plans for a demonstration, as it is becoming tradition. According to the group, "Numerous elected officials from Ireland and New York are refusing to march in the parade because it is such an embarrassment. But thousands of uniformed NYPD cops and firefighters still march in their uniforms which sends the wrong message to GLBTQ New Yorkers, especially those who are already at risk of being targeted for harassment by the police."

 

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