Provocateur and professional loudmouth Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, has jumped into the fray over the exclusionary polices of the St. Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston, promising to boycott Guinness and Samuel Adams beers. Then he added a new twist.
Donohue announced Wednesday that he has applied to march in June's LGBT pride parade in New York City, carrying a “Straight Is Great” banner.
“Are they going to let me do it or not? I’m waiting to see what they want to say,” Donohue said on the conservative Steve Malzberg Show. Donohue explained that parade rules require participants to carry pro-LGBT signs. “All right, you can disagree with their rules, but that’s their parade. Why don’t they respect us when it comes to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade?”
Pride parade organizers issued a brilliant response to Donohue's request. “Mr. Donohue and his group are free to participate in the 2014 March,” said David Studinski, march director for NYC Pride. “His group’s presence affirms the need for this year’s Pride theme, ‘We Have Won When We’re One.’ Straight is great — as long as there’s no hate.” Organizers provided him with instructions for using the parade's online registration system, while also pointing out his history of antigay rhetoric; read the full statement here.
Donohue should be allowed to march. Who in the LGBT community wouldn’t agree with Donohue that “straight is great”? After all, heterosexual sex is the reason nearly all of us are here.
This is what those in Donohue’s camp don’t understand.
It’s not one or the other; this isn’t a zero-sum game. LGBT people should celebrate being their authentic selves. So should straight people. Draw the circle wide, as the hymn I learned in divinity school says.
Here’s the thing about Donohue. He riles up people for money. He doesn’t believe in the bigotry he inspires. In fact, just last month he admitted that he believes LGBT people should be legally protected against discrimination in the workplace.
But something Donohue might not understand is that to be a person of faith is not at odds with being an openly LGBT person. As a fellow Catholic, he surely knows as many holy and healthy gay priests as I do. So to claim that gay people who ask to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade are attacking Catholicism, as he does, is nonsense.
Donohue writes that Guinness’s decision to withdraw its sponsorship of New York’s St. Paddy's Day parade "has more to do with anti-Catholicism than with anti-Irish sentiment. Gay activists, and their tony heterosexual buddies, don’t have a beef with the Irish — they seek to punish Catholics for holding to traditional moral beliefs."
Many gay activists are Catholic. Some of us are Irish. We don’t have a beef with either group.
I’d be happy to explain this to Donohue further, perhaps over a Guinness.
MICHAEL O'LOUGHLIN is The Advocate's religion writer. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.