In 1947, then Boston city mayor James Michael Curley gave the power of organizing the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to the private South Boston Allied War Veterans Council. In 1994, the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (“GLIB”) wanted to march in the parade, and the Council said no. GLIB sought a court order against the Council, citing a Massachusetts law that forbids “discrimination or restriction on account of… sexual orientation.” The Council still refused and canceled the 1994 parade rather than let the queers in.
RULING: The court ruled unanimously in favor of the Council. Despite the parade being more of a civic event than a private one, and that the Council granted a permit and access to city streets, the Court ruled, “Private citizens organizing a public demonstration may not be compelled by the state to include groups who impart a message the organizers do not want to be included in their demonstration.”
WHAT STEVENS DID: Even though Stevens voted with the majority on this one, the decision isn’t essentially anti-LGBT. Instead, it laid an important precedent that effects LGBT Pride parades and Chambers of Commerce. If an anti-gay group wanted to join a city’s Pride parade or a LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the city would have to defer the decision to the private LGBT group which could then deny the haters without any fear of getting hijacked or sued.
WHY IT MATTERS TODAY: To this day, Irish gay and lesbian groups continue to protest, boycott, or hold alternate parades in defiance to their continued exclusion from the Catholic cultural events, most notably in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the protests, boycotts, and alternate parades have almost become part of the tradition. But since the Catholics are now openly embracing child molesters, maybe we queers seem less scary in comparison—we may be marching soon enough!