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council head boycotts St. Pat's parade

Out New York City
council head boycotts St. Pat's parade

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Christine Quinn will attend several breakfasts before New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade today, along with Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, but the city's first openly gay city council leader will not join the 150,000 marchers on Fifth Avenue after organizers rejected compromise attempts and barred Irish gays and lesbians from joining the festivities for the 16th straight year.

Christine Quinn will attend several breakfasts before New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade today, along with Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, but the city's first openly gay city council leader will not join the 150,000 marchers on Fifth Avenue after organizers rejected compromise attempts and barred Irish gays and lesbians from joining the festivities for the 16th straight year. "I can't deny who I am on any given day," said Quinn, who was arrested in 1999 for protesting at an exclusionary parade in the Bronx. Quinn, who took office in January, said attempts at brokering a deal with the Ancient Order of Hibernians for the 245th parade fell through. The city's Irish gays had long hoped to march behind their own banner, like other groups, although Quinn said they were willing to walk with the city council as a unified group. "There were conversations back and forth," Quinn said. "There were moments where I was hopeful that we could have come to some agreement. But that didn't happen." John Dunleavy, chairman of the parade, told The New York Times in Friday's editions that Quinn "is more than welcome to march as the leader of the city council, but no buttons or decorations in any shape or form." The decision came as no surprise to gay activist Brendan Fay, who has spent the past 16 years in the thick of the fight to march and then each subsequent March 17 watching the nation's oldest and largest parade from the sidewalk. "You know the song--`When Irish eyes are smiling, all the world seems bright and gay,'" Fay said. "Well, not on Fifth Avenue." The fight to let Irish gays march under their own banner dates to 1991, when parade organizers first rejected an application from the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization. The organizers said they wanted to keep politics out of the event. Instead, 35 ILGO members marched with a Manhattan division of the Hibernians and then-mayor David Dinkins. The group was sprayed with beer and insults as it walked up Fifth Avenue. That was its last appearance in the parade, which draws up to 2 million spectators. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will march Friday, again urged the Hibernian order to change its stance regarding the gay contingent. "I've always believed this is a city where all the parades should be open to everybody, and orientation, gender...should not be the deciding thing," Bloomberg said. The mayor marched earlier this month in the inclusive Queens St. Patrick's Day parade, which was launched by Fay this year. Besides the Irish gays, the organizers barred another advocacy group from marching this year: the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which lobbies on behalf of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States. Fay said the seemingly endless battle for inclusion gets exasperating. "I sometimes joke there will be a peace brokered on the streets of Belfast faster than between the Irish on Fifth Avenue," Fay said. But Quinn said she was optimistic about the 2007 parade. "I've only been speaker for 10 weeks," she said, "so now we have 12 months to try to figure this out." (AP)

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