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Op-ed: In Boston, an Ugly St. Patrick's Day Tradition Continues

Op-ed: In Boston, an Ugly St. Patrick's Day Tradition Continues


Irish Catholics in Boston, forgetting their history, play the bigot this St. Patrick's Day.

Instead of donning green to celebrate Boston Irish pride this St. Patrick's Day, some in Massachusetts should be sporting faces red with shame.

Boston's famed St. Patrick's Day parade rejected an application from the LGBT rights group MassEquality last month, as The Advocate reported, and since then, things have only gotten worse.

But last week, at the urging of Boston's new Irish mayor, Marty Walsh, there were some hopeful signs that a compromise had been reached.

The parade's organizer, the Allied War Veterans Council, had struck a deal with MassEquality, allowing up to 20 veterans who identify as LGBT to march.

Just days later, however, the parade's organizers announced that MassEquality would, in fact, no longer be welcome, because its marchers planned to identify as LGBT.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has said that it has no part in the parade's planning, and because of that, it has taken no stance on whether LGBT groups should be allowed to march.

And yet Brother Thomas Dalton, principal of Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Harvard, Mass., cited his version of the Catholic faith in explaining why he wouldn't take part.

Dalton said he learned of the deal to let MassEquality march and decided his students would not participate. He said that students could not march in an event that condoned "the homosexual lifestyle," according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

An openly gay soldier can now serve without fear of being dishonorably discharged. Pope Francis has cracked the door for LGBT Catholics to live their faith lives honestly.

The organizers of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade can no longer hide behind the military or the church.

But how will Bostonians respond?

If they choose to support the parade, they're conceding that homophobia is an acceptable value, one that's OK to overlook if it means having a good party.

Yet there are signs hint that a movement to reject parade organizers' antiquated values might be growing, even transcending partisan lines.

"It's time to get rid of the St. Patrick's' Day parade," wrote the conservative Boston Herald's Margery Eagan. "This supposed celebration of Irish pride and culture has instead become a paean to bigotry. It's an embarrassment to Boston. It should embarrass Irish-Americans. It surely embarrasses this one."

In The Boston Globe, Kevin Cullen noted the parade has virtually nothing to do with Irish pride and honoring veterans, and everything to do with marketing and corporate sponsorship.

"Go to the parade's official website, and the first thing you see is a link directing you to bars where you can celebrate your Irish heritage by having a few cold ones," he wrote. "And if it's about honoring vets, why is a group of antiwar veterans barred from marching? After all, all veterans swore to uphold American values, none higher than free speech."

It wasn't long ago in this country that the Irish and Roman Catholics were both subject to extreme bigotry.

That some in these demographic groups are in a position to be bigoted toward others is perhaps an accomplishment in itself, showing that they've moved up the ranks. But what a sad cycle and a shameful tradition for this great American city.

Michael O'Loughlin is a writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in America, Religion News Service,and Religion & Politics. Find more of his work at, and follow him on Twitter at @MikeOLoughlin.

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