We're Irish! We're queer! Get used to it!

Gays and lesbians aren't welcome at NYC's St. Patrick's Day parade.

By Page Rockwell
March 18, 2006 5:50AM (UTC)
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Broadsheet would like to award a big shamrock to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who skipped the city's mammoth St. Patrick's Day parade today to protest parade organizers' antigay policies. "I can't deny who I am on any given day," Quinn, a lesbian, told reporters on Thursday. It might seem like a minor gesture, but it's caused a surprisingly big firestorm.

This is the 16th year the Ancient Order of Hibernians (yep, seriously) have denied the Irish Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGO)'s request to march in the parade under its own banner. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the Hibernians to reconsider this year, saying "I've always believed this is a city where all the parades should be open to everybody, and orientation, gender ... should not be the deciding thing." And it seems like parade committee chairman John Dunleavy really took that request to heart. Except, wait, he actually did the opposite of that. Here's some of the ill-considered bile Dunleavy spewed in an interview with the Irish Times earlier today:


"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade? People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

Right, because acceptance of lesbians and gays is pretty similar to acceptance of extermination-minded hate groups. Dunleavy's right about one thing, though: People do have rights. As the Family Research Council was quick to remind everyone (we received this charming snippet in a press-release email):

"Boston organizers had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995 to defend their right to march as Irish -- and to keep homosexual activists from hijacking their parade. That case produced a 9-0 ruling in favor of the Boston parade organizers and their legendary leader John "Wacko" Hurley. Homosexuals claimed a First Amendment right to celebrate their lifestyle in the middle of someone else's parade. Even the very liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens could not swallow that blarney." (Heh heh -- the Family Research Council said "swallow.") "But Speaker Quinn is not deterred: 'I can't deny who I am on any given day,' she said. No one is asking her to. The Hibernians are simply saying that their parade celebrates their Irish heritage, not her homosexuality."


Here's the bizarre thing about all this blather: Quinn is Irish. It's her Irish heritage too. Probably a lot of the members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization are, you guessed it, Irish also. It's not the Various Lesbian and Gay Organization. And, Dunleavy's quick-witted remarks about neo-Nazis and Klansmen aside, most people don't ask to march in a parade because they want to eradicate the very people the parade is celebrating. These are Irish people who want to march in a big Irish parade.

So, a round of green beers for Quinn and her friends at ILGO. And if you'd like to encourage the parade organizers to adopt a more tolerant policy next year, shoot an email to: ContactUs@SaintPatricksDayParade.com.

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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