Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Bans Gays. Is It Still OK to March In It?


In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voted to allow Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers to ban gay groups from marching. It’s allowed the Allied War Veterans of South Boston’s parade guru John “Wacko” Hurley to keep homos out. But an official ruling from the nation’s top court doesn’t make the decision for public figures on whether to join the parade any easier. Should Mayor Thomas M. Menino show up to show his support for Boston’s large Irish community? Or should he stay home, to quietly show support for the gay men and women being discriminated against?

During his mayoral tenure, Menino has found a delicious compromise: “Menino participates each year in the breakfast on the morning of the parade, often does media interviews at the head of the parade for television coverage of the event, and visits South Boston residents’ homes during the parade,” reports the Boston Globe. “But as a symbol of his opposition to what he considers the organizers’ discriminatory policy, he has consistently refused to march along the route.”

And he appears to have some support:

Kristie Helms, a member of the board of directors of Boston Pride, which puts on an annual parade in the city for gay rights and awareness, said politicians and the other candidates should follow Menino’s lead.

“It’s disappointing to us that any mayoral candidate is participating in a parade that discriminates against the gay community,” Helms said. “Mayor Menino’s set a pretty high example that all the mayoral candidates are going to have to strive for.”

But what about elected officials not addressed as “Mr. Mayor”?

Challengers Sam Yoon and Michael F. Flaherty, city councilors who are loath to turn their backs on a high-profile community event in a voter-rich section of the city, say they will march, but insist that does not mean they endorse the prohibition on gay groups’ participation. A third challenger, South End businessman Kevin McCrea, will sit it out.

[…] But Yoon and Flaherty say it is an easier choice for Menino.

“It doesn’t cost him anything politically not to march,” Yoon said, pointing out other high- profile events during the day in which Menino is a key participant. “I’ve suffered consequences for telling Wacko Hurley exactly how I feel about his position on this issue.”

Yoon said that he was given a spot at the back of the parade lineup last year after he sent Hurley a letter urging him to change the policy. “I was a little bit after the horses that pooped in front of me,” said Yoon, an at-large councilor.

Still, he said the parade is important to South Boston. “I don’t think it’s fair to punish the people of South Boston because of Wacko Hurley’s stance.”

Flaherty, who lives in South Boston, said he has participated in the parade for the last 39 years and would not change that as a mayoral candidate. “The parade doesn’t define me or my consistent record and support of the [gay] community,” Flaherty said. “I march in all the parades. You name it, I march in it.”

Even a white power march, Mr. Flaherty?