march on

NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Still Doesn’t Want the Gays. And That’s Their Right

On Wednesday, as they do every year, the Irish and those looking to court their votes will march down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the annual rite of 24-hour drinking binges. And, as they do every year, the gays and their advocates will complain about how they deserve to participate. This is a tired argument, and it’s time to stop making it.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, which organizes the parade, doesn’t like the gays, and that’s a belief based in its Irish Catholic roots, which is why it won’t let LGBT groups take part. (Gay police officers and firefighters, of course, do march, but not under a rainbow flag.) Yet every year, we hear from the likes of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, attacking the parade. Quinn makes a qualified critic: She is Irish-American, gay, and has called NYC her home since around the time the Statue of Liberty arrived on its shores. She makes a point each year to not participate in the parade, choosing another event to walk in, such as Dublin Pride in Ireland, or at the White House with Obama. Good for her.

But for the same reasons we don’t want anyone telling us who “has” to be allowed to march in Heritage of Pride’s Gay Pride March each June, or any LGBT pride event around the nation, it’s inappropriate to insist the Hibernians must adhere to our demands.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a “private” event. It is not hosted or produced by the city or a government office. It is considered the “official” St. Patrick’s Day Parade because it is the largest and most well-covered, but it is not the only. Being a private event, it maintains the freedom to discriminate — the same way any gay pride parade gives us to the freedom to exclude groups, sponsors, and citizens that terrorize, discriminate, or harass LGBTs. That’s a fair policy, is rooted in the First Amendment, and one we entirely support, even if parade chairman John Dunleavy was stupid enough to say excluding queers was the same as excluding Nazis from an Israeli pride parade or the KKK from a black pride parade.

(The only grey area you’ll find us wading through is Hibernians’ use of taxpayer resources, including police security and post-parade sanitation workers cleaning the streets, to execute the event, although we understand the city is paid a fee to cover the costs.)

We’re not saying anyone should stop lobbying the Hibernians to let us take part. There are plenty of gay Irish who would love to participate, and put both parts of their cultures on display, and it’s a reasonable request they be able to do so. It’s an effort we encourage. What we are saying is that it’s time to stop “demanding” the Hibernians allow us to take part.

Why? Because we wouldn’t want any group of any affiliation to insist they be given a parade float to travel down Fifth Avenue during NYC’s annual gay pride march.

Whether it’s ExxonMobil, with their horrific record on employee equality, or delegates representing Uganda’s legislator David Bahati, with his support of the Kill The Gays bill. And what if a group representing the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which orchestrated the marriage equality rape of gay Californians, wanted to take part? Would you want to feel “forced” to allow them? Or a group promoting polygamous marriage — which, even if you support their right to multiple wives, you might not want involved in a gay event because of the negative stigmatization?

If a private group wants to host a private pride event, even if it’s on public property, it should be able to discriminate against whoever it sees fit. These events are about celebrating “pride” for a certain culture, and if they believe certain demographics to be plagues on their identity, so be it. It may not be morally correct, but it’s their right.

The solution is not always forcing our way in, but in using the event as an opportunity to educate participants and spectators about the organizers’ homophobic behavior and beliefs. We would love the Hibernians to welcome the gays this St. Patrick’s Day, and commend anyone working to make that happen, not just so LGBTs can march with their heads held high, but so on-lookers and history can mark our involvement.

But this isn’t a debate over one of our “rights”; it’s a debate over a privilege. Thankfully, and perhaps in spite of any of their delusions, the Hibernians do not represent all Irish people, and nor do their discriminatory parades.

[photo via, via]

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  • CertainPOV

    On this ocassion Queerty has gotten it right. We should no more dictate who they must allow to march in their parade than anyone else should dictate who marches in ours.

  • romeo

    This is old news and this discrimination has been going on for years. I’m surprised you even brought it up. That parade is a catholic “thang.” I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near it.

  • Lucas

    Great article and I agree completely.

  • Paschal

    @romeo: I wouldn’t say that the parade is a Roman Catholic thing. I’m an Irish atheist and I attend the Sy. Patrick’s Day Parade in my home town. It’s about celebrating Iirshness.

  • Josh

    I agree with this article for the most part. However, one could argue that gays who want to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day parade only want to showcase the pride they have in their Irish heritage. They would march peacefully and happily, as opposed to a group from Uganda who supports killing gays marching in a pride parade, who I imagine would only serve to disrupt the peaceful proceedings. I agree that we shouldn’t try and force anyone to allow gays to march because first amendment rights are in play, but the analogy is a little shaky because I can’t imagine anyone wanting to march in a gay pride parade unless they wanted to celebrate gay pride.

  • Paschal

    That sould be ”St. Patrick’s” and ”Irishness”.

  • Kieran

    We’d have a much stronger argument if we were able to point to gay groups marching in the Thanksgiving Day, Columbus Day, Puerto Rican Day, Pulaski Day, Carribean Day, Israel Day, Steuben Day, etc. etc. parades in NYC. But gays AREN’T ALLOWED to march OPENLY in those parades either. It isn’t just those “terrible, awful, bigoted Irish-Catholics” that discriminate against gays in their parades…..the Jews, Italians, Poles, blacks and Puerto Ricans aren’t any better.

  • terrwill

    Certainpov and Romeo: Right on…….

    This crap has been going on for years in NYC. And the Gays have lost at every level every year. NY has one of the bestest Pride Parades in the world. Why continue year after year to wedge oneself into a parade that as Romeo points out no Gay should even want to be a part of?? And if we won as Certainpov points out we may have to include groups who hate on the Gays in our parades.. I don’t want those asshats in my parade, I don’t want to be part of their parade. Lets fight battles that actually can do some good for the Gays and doesn’t give those who hate on the Gays satisfaction each and every year…………..

  • mike.

    I always hate the argument that “If gays can march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, what’s to stop anti-gay groups from marching in the Gay Pride parade?” In what possible sense can being gay be seen as “anti-Irish”? I bet if you looked around carefully enough, you might even meet one or two people who are (gasp!) gay AND Irish!

    But yes, it’s their parade, and they can invite or not invite whoever they please. I just wish they, the media, and the entire city would stop selling this event as this huge, fun, all-inclusive event where “EVERYONE is Irish today!” Bull-fucking-shit. If the Hibernians want to play the religion card to exclude anybody, then stop selling this event as a big, fun, city-wide, all-are-welcome event and call it what it is: a somber, respectful, conservative, quiet, dignified, highly-orthodox religious ceremony. If they are willing to do that, then I am willing to stop banging on the window asking them to unlock the door.

    The worst part is I don’t even LIKE parades.

  • Emmaia Gelman

    You’ve got the story badly mixed up. If Irish Queers wanted to march in gay pride, no one would tell us that we can’t because we’re Irish. The argument that you wouldn’t want the AOH in Pride (or the KKK at an MLK-day march) is totally beside the point.

    Beyond that, the protest at the NYC St. Patrick’s parade is as much or more about challenging religious-right homophobia — especially the gleeful participation of the NYPD and other city officials in an explicitly anti-gay, religious event — as it is about trying to get into the dreary parade. For those of us with real ties to Ireland, it’s also about clearing a community space that fits not just our queer selves, but our whole selves.

    I’m not sure what the point is in writing a “those people, whom I have nothing to do with, ought to stop objecting to discrimination” article. But if queers are going to eat our own, at least the eaters should get the story straight.

  • Emmaia Gelman

    I should add that the “KKK at MLK-day” argument is how the NYC St. Patrick’s parade organizers describe the idea of having Irish LGBT people march at an ostensibly Irish parade. (But we shouldn’t bother to object to that, right?)

  • Qjersey

    Stick to the snark, Queerty has no credibility when it comes to politics or social issues.

  • schlukitz

    No. 5 · Josh

    Point well made. Comparing Irish gays who want to celebrate their Irish heritage to a Ugandan “Kill the gays” group, is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Personally, I would not want to march in any parade that denies me the right to celebrate my national heritage based simply on my being gay. It is discrimination…blatant…and very public.

    That said, however, it does beg the question;

    Would a black man, born in Ireland be denied the right to march in the St. patrick’s Day parade because of his blackness?

    Would a woman born in Ireland be denied the right to march in the St. Patrick’s day parade because of her gender?

    Would a man of German heritage married to an Irish lady be denied the right to march in the St. Patrick’s day parade because of his ancestry?

    The answer to all of these (and similar questions), would be a resounding NO…because that would be discrimination that is totally unacceptable…and illegal to boot.

    But, discriminate against a gay person by baring them from marching in the St. Patrick’s day parade because of his/her sexuality? No problem.

    The black community said “Enough already.”

    Women said “Enough already.”

    When do we gays stop giving everyone a free passes to publicly piss on us?

    I mean, that IS what discrimination is all about, isn’t it? Pissing on people?

  • ChrisM

    I agree that we shouldn’t demand that the AOH allow a gay float in the parade. Of course it’s frustrating to see more discrimination. But the AOH isn’t the source of it. If we put all of our efforts into getting marriage benefits, ending DADT, and getting employment protections, then commonplace discrimination like this will start to look more and more ugly to the majority, and won’t be seen as the AOH’s respectful opinion anymore.

  • ChrisM

    Should have said respectable*.

  • Mercure

    I agree with the point of this article. I’m someone who’s gay, Irish, NYC born. And this controversy pops up every year for the past 17 years. I’m over it, really.

    Demanding inclusion belongs I think, to an earlier strident time in gay rights. And I am wholeheartedly proud of gay activism in the 1990’s- they fought the good honorable fight. But this is not something to fight over. Demanding to be included in a parade that doesn’t want you isn’t any way to create good feeling, it’s antagonistic.

    A lot has changed since 1993. I suppose what i mean is that while i’m sorry there isn’t now a place for Irish gays in the parade, it’s hardly life or death. My only regret is that it paints the Irish as especially bigoted- which is not really true anymore. As someone noted, there’s no gay contingent in the Puerto Rican parade either.

    It’s just a parade.

  • benlayvey

    I was going to agree to the post until I saw the “Create St. Patrick’s Day Cards Starring You” advert while scrolling down to enter my comment! No wonder you wrote that article from another point of view other than Queerty’s!

  • Miss Understood

    Sorry, I disagree with you wholeheartedly. As far as I know there has been no movement to legally force their way in. The Hibernians have a right to exclude and protesters have a right to protest. Asking or demanding is all the same, it’s freedom of speech. It’s the same sort of public pressure that is often expressed with boycotts.

    The gay groups who want to march are Irish groups asking to march in an Irish community parade. I have rarely heard of the Gay Pride March excluding gay groups based upon their other affiliations. If they did exclude gay groups because of other affiliations (black, Irish, etc) I would sure as hell expect a protest.

    Ultimately they may never get into the parade but I think their protests serve as an excellent reminder to liberal Catholics that their church and it’s supporters are bigoted. Over time it may help eradicate the Church’s political and social influence.

  • terrwill

    @Miss Understood: Simply use the googles and you will see, there have been dozens of cases that went to various jurisdictions and the Gays have lost each and every time. We need to pick our battles. To continue to go to a well we very well know is bone dry gains us nothing. Yet gives those who continue to spew hate and seek to do harm to the Gay community in very concrete ways more support and a sense of empowerment………

  • tazz602

    Right on all points. You got it 100% right. Just like the Phelps case going to the SCOTUS – it’s abhorrent, but their rights as a private organization must be respected just as we would want ours to be respected as well.

  • jason

    I think gays should be allowed to march, of course they should. But I don’t necessarily want them marching under a “gay rights” banner. If gays simply march along with everyone else, that should be fine.

  • jason

    I’m not so sure that the parade is exactly a private event. It’s on a public street. You and I paid for that street.

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    No, Queerty is WRONG WRONG WRONG.

    NYC, which had numerous antidiscrimination policies, underwrites tens of thousands of dollars for security, police/fire department participation, and sanitation department cleanup.

    While the Ancient AssHieberians can be homophobic bigoted assholes, as a private organization, then it should be made to cover 100% of all costs and NO police/fire department personnel should be allowed to participate in their city uniforms or while on the city’s dime.

    By using public paid for accommodations, the parade should be open to participation by the city’s residents, including the LGBT community.

  • Lanjier

    Gay Irish have to demand to be included in parade, because bigotry is no the Irish way. It is is the same reason gay parades can exclude the KKK — bigotry is not the Gay way.

    Gays need to stand for something larger than acceptance of gays — they need to stand up for the removal of bigotry from the planet earth. Private property rights may be legal, but that does make them correct.

    When Irish came to this country they were greeted with signs, “Irish need not apply.” But modern Irish have forgotten the bigotry that they encounters. We, as gays, need to remind them.

    The hatred of the Irish by the English and by Americans has to be seared into the brains of every Irish person on earth. Never forget, and always embrace, equality for all under the law.

    Fight, fight and fight harder, for what is universally right, even when the law rightfully permits it.

  • Cat Walker

    and marching to some drunks’s parade it’s important to gays because??…

  • Paul O'Dwyer

    It has been almost twenty years since this issue was raised, and the issues are a lot more nuanced than the way Queerty presents them.

    If you announce that you are the “authentic” forum for Irish people in the US to get together on March 17, and extend an invitation to the public to participate in the parade, as does the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, then you lose much of your claim to be private. It also becomes hard to convincingly argue that the NYC St. Pats Parade is private, when no other groups are allowed even apply to march in Manhattan on that date – LGBT and other groups repeatedly tried to get a permit and were denied – and when it is largely composed of cops’ and firefighters’ marching bands who parade in uniform and rehearse in taxpayer-funded facilities and get taxpayer-funded comp time for their participation. Likewise all the ublic high schools that participate – they all rehearse on public school groups using public monies. If you want to have a private event, then pay the price.
    For years LGBT groups were not even allowed protest anywhere remotely near the parade, because the NYPD, the Parade’s biggest participant, would arrest everyone who tried, and would refuse to issue a permit so that such a protest would be legal. So much for the First Amendment. I don’t see Queerty squawking
    about the imnportance of those rights.

    And what if the LGBT Pride Parade organizers invoked the first amendment to exclude black or jewish gay groups? Don’t black or jewish gay groups have the right to participate in the designated gay pride celebrations, instead of being told that they can go organize their own parade, on a different date and far away from the main event? Surely First Amendment thinking can be a bit more sophisticated than this all-or-nothing approach.

  • Herb

    The bigots have the right to discriminate on who is allowed in their parade. But, we have the right to point their bigotry out to the world and be disgusted with them and show public disdain for the a-holes — and don’t you forget that right, queerity!

  • Disgusted American

    there will be Mo’s all over that parade,and always has been, just closeted ones….but MANY!

  • Kieran

    How long are we going to sit back and passively allow our gay Puerto Rican brothers and sisters to be excluded from marching in the Puerto Rican Day parade? Why aren’t Italian-American gays allowed to march openly the Columbus Day parade? And where are the gay activists to demand that Gay Jewish and Israeli groups are allowed to march openly in the Salute to Israel Day parade? Enough with the hypocritical politics. Let’s start with gaining admittance to the smaller parades, and work our way up.

  • Bill Perdue

    @Herb: We also have the right to disrupt but should hold off until we have the numbers and leadership to be effective.

    That will be a confrontation with the clerical bigots, cops and Democrats who pander to bigots.

  • EWE

    I find the St. Patricks Day Parade to be a boring onslaught of endless police and fire dept.employees. It reminds me of the military. But hey, if they prefer to let a japanese marching band participate while denying Irish gay new yorkers, then the parade is going to go out of style with the next generation. After all, the gay contingent is New York. What does a bunch of Nebraskans with a high school band have to do with being Irish?

  • Robert, NYC

    Is the parade in Dublin a private event? Why is it gays are allowed to march there but not here?

    Kieran, the reason is…..religion is at the root of it all.

  • christopher di spirito

    Why do gays want to march in this stupid parade?

    Have you seen the men in the St. Patrick parade? They’re all hideous, fat gingers, drunk and unkempt. Nothing like the uber-hot Puerto Rican men in the Puerto Rican parade.

  • geoffrey

    The Ancient Order of Hibernians, which organizes the parade, doesn’t like the gays, and that’s a belief based in its Irish Catholic roots, which is why it won’t let LGBT groups take part.

    Sounds like a reason to protest. This is the LAST blog I think I will ever read from this website, btw. The people writing this shit are retarded!!!

  • dfrw

    I don’t live in NY, but I do live in Boston. I am not Irish, I don’t like parades, and particularly not when the spectators and revelers are drunk idiots, and I don’t believe in God because there’s not a shred of evidence that God exists.

    Let’s pick our battles and save the energy for something that is truly helpful to gays and lesbians.

    My two cents, not that you asked. =)

  • romeo

    I haven’t been to that parade since I was a kid. I know they’ve always kept us out, but surely NAMBLA has a float. I mean this is a catholic parade.

  • Shade

    Nice article.

    It’s ironic to the extent that this is the group who a century and some change ago was bristling at being told everywhere they went in New York: “Paddies Need Not Apply.”

    But as we know formerly oppressed groups don’t always find compassion when they win acceptance (Whose idea was it to stop feeding Christians to lions?)

    Let them have their parade and their rules about who can be in their clubhouse. I’m sure we are ok with having a nice big Irish float in our parade.

  • Greg

    How in the world can anyone think that the St. Patrick’s day parade is an religious event? Bullshamrocks! It is an expression of pride in one’s Irish”ness” or Irish heritage. Can we please stop even giving the slightest hint that the event is somehow Catholic. Can anyone tell me what point of faith or belief is being expressed by the parade?

    Proud Irish Catholic Queer

  • romeo

    Greg, where have you been? The whole premise on keeping us out was based on “Irish-CATHOLIC tradition.”


    I’m not Irish, so this doesn’t apply to me personally…but I don’t understand why anyone who is Irish, and happens to also be gay, just can’t go to the parade and bask in the celebration of their ethnic heritage. Go there in the spirit of being IRISH, not to “represent” a socio-political “gay” chapter/subculture of the community.

  • leftypower

    I am astounded at the spineless acquiescence of some in the LGBT community. Bigotry and intolerance anywhere is in justice to us all.

    We will never gain complete equality under civil law in all 50 states with so many queers willing to capitulate to even the most blatant, egregious displays of homophobia. So while many sit here and blog celebrating our weakness, I, for one, am taking to the streets. We must not let up.

  • pam

    I am not going to participate in anything Irish….your antiquated beliefs about gays present the Irish as a ignorant, discriminating and hating group.

  • Charles Merrill

    They ban gays because they don’t want the groups featured in Gay Pride Parades showing up. That would include “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”, “Go Go boys on floats”, or “dykes on bikes”. They would scare the Catholic pedophile priests.

  • Robert, NYC

    Pam, #41, your comments only apply to Irish Americans. In Ireland, they’re a lot better and put those of Irish descent to shame.

    Charles, #43…I think you have a point. Its the pedophile clerics in the roman cult who don’t want any gays marching openly for fear perhaps that someone might out them. Pedophilia in the cult has been around since its inception, its nothing new and its not going to diminish. They’ll find other ways to circumvent that. I wonder what they’ll be doing about the philandering straight clerics in their fold? They do exist! I also wonder what the Vatican is doing about “weeding” out the straight abusers from entering the seminaries as well as the philanders? A lot of people in the U.S. seem to overlook the fact that females were also abused but its played down, while the gay component is played up and exploited to maximize homophobia and using that among others to influence the outcome in defeating marriage equality. Its all relevant as far as the cult goes in denigrating our lives.

  • EWE

    Doesn’t everyone know St. Patrick was a gay man? Prove otherwise.

  • Robert, NYC

    How do you know for sure, Ewe? Is that a joke? What a lot of people don’t know is that he wasn’t even Irish but born in Roman occupied Britain and was kidnapped by Irish marauders and taken to Ireland. It was quite possible he was sexually abused by his captors of course. How would we know anything about his sexual orientation? Is there evidence of that?

  • Laura

    @ChrisM: I have to say I strongly agree with you. AOH’s attitude is a symptom rather than a cause. Of course they reinforce attitudes of acceptable discrimination but at the same from day one, the ILGA campaign came across as very aggressive and uncompromising, whether it really was that way or not I don’t know, but there was a sense that somehow the group were trying to force opinions on another group and it didn’t help. Its unfortunate that AOH have not simply distanced themselves from the organizing of the parade in order to lessen the very hard damage done to themselves by their negative and exclusionary behaviour.

  • Sarah Schulman

    As someone who was arrested for five years in a row for trying to march in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, I assure you that the parade is NOT a private event, as the Hibernians falsely claim. The parade would not be possible without public funds for police, traffic and sanitation, and therefore it is subject to the non-discrimination policies in NYC’s (hard won) anti-discrimination laws.

    It is only the political influence of the Catholic Church that has kept public funds flowing to a discriminatory event.

  • romeo

    Sarah, you might actually be able to march in it before long the way things are going for the church. Just don’t wear one of those goofy leprechaun hats. Gays are the only ones left in this country upholding esthetic standards.

  • Paschal

    @Robert, NYC: Well it’s the national holiday. I’m Irish and live in Ireland by the way. Gays don’t march openly in Irish St. Patrick’s Day parades, to the best of my knowledge. I would be shocked to hear, however, that gays are banned from marching openly in the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland. Gays simply haven’t marched. The Ancient Order of Hibernians doesn’t seem to understand that Sy. Patrick’s Day is for all Irish people.

  • Paschal

    @Paschal: But gays have marched previously.

  • Paschal

    @dfrw: Of course there are drunk idiots at parades but to paint everyone with the same brush is unfair to all the families, etc. who simply wish to watch a parade and celebrate their heritage.

  • MIke

    I don’t get why they have to march in an Irish parade as gay. I thought gays were equals to straight people. Aren’t you just a regular person? No one is stopping you from marching in the parade, there is just no reason to bring sexuality into it.

  • kodienyc

    As ever, Queerty, Inc. is purveying anti-gay, right-wing lies and abuse,(Did you notice that Queerty, Inc. doesn’t allow radical or revolutionary “bloggers”, only liberal-conservative ones?) First, the comparison between the Hibernians and the Catholic Church and gay and lesbian people (i.e. the Gay Pride Parade) is preposterous. The churches and the Hibernians are both inherently abusive organizations that have no place in our society. Gay and lesbian people are not inherently abusive to others, and the comparison between these two groups is a false analogy and is just the type of fake analogy that the ultraright uses to deceive those who don’t understand similarity in analogic reasoning. Second, as Professor Schulman aptly points out above, the Hibernians’ drunken quasi-religious orgy of abuse and public degradation is in NO way a private event. The Hibernians are state welfare recipients in a multitude of ways, and are also part of an old boys’ network of private and state power and money that’s responsible for destroying gay lives. (This is not to even mention the question of the legitimacy of the idea of a private sphere or of the delusional concept of private “choice”). Queerty, Inc. is another one of many rightist, anti-gay news and opinion purveyors who attempt (successfully) to legitimize the public abuse and degradation of queer persons and to thereby abide and abet the confusion, lack of self-esteem, and self-loathing that may queer persons feel. In the end, we see the truth of what Queerty, Inc.’s editors want, which is to preserve that old resentment of the conservative mind: the right (or should I say the privilege?) to abuse others publicly, and they will cry and scream and pout and rant (and “blog”) if there is even a chance that they might be prevented from doing so.

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