Irish Queers protesting at the 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade. | DONNA ACETO
BY ANDY HUMM | New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has been subject to protests for 25 years over its refusal to include an Irish LGBT group, may be on the verge of admitting such a group in the 2016 parade.
The committee that runs the parade elected John Lahey, a longtime member, as its new chairman, and John Fitzsimmons as vice-chair on June 30 and empowered them to select a second LGBT group to participate in the 2016 parade, according to a July 8 report in Catholic New York.
The two admitted NBCUniversal’s corporate LGBT group, Out@NBCUniversal, to the 2015 parade. That did not satisfy Irish Queers or the hundreds of activists — including this reporter — who have demanded that an Irish LGBT group be allowed to march with its own banner, just as Irish LGBT groups participate in St. Patrick’s Day parades elsewhere, including Ireland. It is assumed that Out@NBCUniversal will return, though that could not be confirmed.
The committee will announce its second LGBT group in September, and it is widely believed they will admit the Lavender & Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group founded in 1994 by Irish immigrant and gay activist Brendan Fay, who has organized the LGBT-inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens since 1999. As Gay City News went to press, Fay was hospitalized and unavailable for comment.
J.F. Mulligan of Irish Queers, who has been protesting since 1991, said in a statement, “We are watching with interest as this parade committee unfolds. Our demand is the same as ever: for Irish LGBTQ groups to take our rightful place in our community's parade, behind a banner that says who we are, just like all the other contingents. We're proud that our years of protest have finally forced a reckoning, but we also know these are the same guys who were on the parade committee that insisted on discrimination until now…This year they are saying they will add a second LGBTQ group, but have never even acknowledged our application.”
Irish Queers has convinced large numbers of elected officials to boycott the parade until such time as an Irish LGBT group can march behind its own banner.
The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), a group of Irish LGBT immigrants, first applied to march in 1991, and were denied. That year, Mayor David Dinkins invited ILGO to march with him within the Manhattan Division 7 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but they were met with derision and objects were thrown at them.
The committee declared itself a Catholic procession and won the right in federal court to exclude any group based on First Amendment grounds. The parade is known for the many government entities that march, including police, firefighters, and US military. The LGBT protests of the parade were large in the '90s — sometimes with hundreds of arrests — and continued to this decade when they swelled again in 2014 as Mayor Bill de Blasio took office. While most progressive elected officials stayed away, Hillary Clinton marched during her US Senate run in 2000, but subsequently absented herself.
The inclusion of Out@NBCUniversal, blessed by the 2015 grand marshal Cardinal Timothy Dolan, did not satisfy protesters or the mayor. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito again kept the City Council banner out of the parade, leaving a handful of politicians to march behind their own “City Officials” banner.