John M. Becker

LGBT Group to March in NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade Next Year

Filed By John M. Becker | September 03, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: Bill Donohue, New York City, St. Patrick's Day, St. Patrick's Day Parade

new-york-st-patricks-parade.jpgNew York City's renowned St. Patrick's Day Parade will end its longstanding and highly criticized policy of banning gay groups from marching, organizers announced today.

The Associated Press reports:

A gay group will march under its own banner for the first time in the world's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade, organizers said Wednesday...

The parade committee, in a statement made available to The Associated Press, said Wednesday that [email protected], a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender resource group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would be marching up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17 under an identifying banner.

Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, said the group had applied to march, but there was no immediate word on why the group was chosen.

"We welcome the parade committee's decision to accept [email protected]'s application to march and enthusiastically embrace the gesture of inclusion," Robinson said. "Our employees, families and friends look forward to joining in this time-honored celebration of Irish culture and heritage."

[email protected] is described on its website as "the affinity group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at NBCUniversal." Parade directors voted unanimously to include the group, the statement said.

Only the NBC LGBT group will be allowed to march next year, but additional groups will be welcomed in succeeding years. The move was praised by the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD, but GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis added that organizers "must be held accountable" on their promise to open the parade to all LGBT groups.

New York LGBT groups, though, were much less impressed. Details, after the jump.

In a statement, Nathan M. Schaefer, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, called the parade organizers' move "self-serving":

The news that the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade will allow one LGBT group - OUT at NBC Universal - to march under its own banner for the first time strikes us as disappointing and self-serving. While this development is long overdue, inviting one group to march at the exclusion of all others and continuing to refer to our vibrant community as "gay" when it is in fact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, is a far stretch from the full inclusion we deserve...

As New York's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, we call on all leaders, community members and allies to demand that the organizers go even further. We call on them to take a bolder stand for inclusion by welcoming other groups that truly represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Irish Americans to march in 2015...

New York is known for its diversity and inclusive spirit. Discrimination against LGBT people in New York City is illegal, and we're proud to host the country's largest LGBT pride parade down the very same street, in fact, on which we're denied participation each March. We must continue the momentum from this small step in the right direction and call for full equality not tomorrow, but today.

new-york-st-patricks-parade2.jpgIrish Queers, a New York City-based group, had a similar reaction:

We welcome this cracking of the veneer of hate, but so far Irish LGBT groups are still not able to march in our community's parades. The fight continues.

This is a deal that was made behind closed doors between parade organizers and one of their last remaining sponsors, NBC. It allows NBC's gay employees to march, but embarrassingly has not ended the exclusion of Irish LGBT groups. The parade organizers have said, astoundingly, that we "can apply" in years to come.

To the extent that parade organizers have changed their tune, it's the result of Irish Queers' many years of organizing, which led to last year's refusal to march by Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and others, and Mayor de Blasio, the withdrawal of major corporate sponsors and escalating criticism of uniformed city workers marching in the Parade.

We welcome this small victory, but our call remains the same -- the parade must be open to Irish LGBT groups, not "in subsequent years" but now. (We remember too well how parade organizers used fake waiting lists to bury our appications before.)

The Irish community in Ireland and abroad is far more progressive than the parade committee, having abandoned the secretive power-mongering of the days when the Catholic Church held sway over politics. We still hope NYC will catch up. This has been a long, long journey and struggle. It is time for Irish LGBT people, marching under our own banner, to take our rightful place in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

But while today's concession by the parade organizers is not enough -- not even close -- it is a big step in the right direction. For evidence, look no further than the hilarious attempt to downplay the news from Bill Donohue, the windbag homophobic troll president of the so-called Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights:

Never in the history of New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade have homosexuals been barred from marching, anymore than pro-life Catholics have, but in both cases they were not permitted to have their own unit. I have been assured that the rules have been formally changed to allow both of these groups, as well as others, to march under their own banner. That being the case, there should be no controversy. One would hope that all the new entries will conduct themselves in a manner that honors St. Patrick, lest another round of controversy emerges.

Don't be fooled by Donohue's nonchalance: he's long been a vociferous champion of the ban, but now that it's fallen he wants you to think it's really no big deal. (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.) Holy backpedaling, Batman!

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.