New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision not to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade because of its antigay policies was a statement of personal principle. But for some LGBT activists and supporters, the move stopped well short of the kind of action that the mayor could have taken. They want him to forbid any city worker, including firefighters and police officers, from march in the parade in uniform.
In a letter to the mayor, the group, consisting of more than 30 organizations and 14 former and present city officials, argue that the presence of uniformed city workers violates the city’s nondiscrimination law.
“The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade have established a constitutional right to their exclusionary religious procession, but the participation of police and firefighters is a clear violation of the City’s Human Rights Law,: the letter says. “The presence of uniformed police and firefighters in such a procession sends a clear signal to LGBTQ New Yorkers that these personnel, who are charged with serving and protecting all New Yorkers, do not respect the lives or safety of LGBT people.”
In announcing his decision to boycott the parade, de Blasio specifically noted that uniformed workers would be allowed to march. Those who signed the letter consider that move a slap in the community’s face, especially since the police deparment (NYPD) and fire deparment (FDNY) represent a huge number of marchers.
“The NYPD and FDNY’s participation in the parade is hugely questionable under the law–and the fact that the Mayor doesn’t seem concerned with remedying this problem is as disturbing legally as it is morally and politically,” said Alan Levine, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. “If the guarantee of respect for equality and dignity that is embedded in human rights law and the constitution means anything, it surely means that uniformed police – who are charged with equal enforcement of the law – should not be parading down a public street conveying a message of contempt for one of our City’s communities.”
No word yet from de Blasio but it’s fair to expect that the issue will continue to heat up between now and March 17.