Why the Furor Over Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A stack of shamrock hats sit on a vendor's table on seventh avenue in midtown Manhattan the Friday before St. Patrick's Day. A stack of shamrock hats sit on a vendor's table on seventh avenue in midtown Manhattan the Friday before St. Patrick's Day. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

New York City's 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day Parade takes place on Monday. It is older than the United States and the largest in the world. But Mayor Bill de Blasio — and many City Council members — won't be marching in it this year. WNYC explains why — and why this year.

Why won't the Mayor march?

The Mayor is boycotting the parade in solidarity with the gay community. LGBT groups have been banned from marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade since 1992. "I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city," Mayor de Blasio told reporters.

Didn't Mayor Bloomberg march every year?

Yes. The former Mayor never missed a parade, but that doesn't mean he was ok with excluding the LGBT community. "I think it’s a misguided policy," Bloomberg told Katie Couric in a recent interview. "I tried to get them to change it and I was unsuccessful at doing that."

Bloomberg went on to tell Couric he didn't think boycotting was the right way to go about the problem. "If anything I think it hardens the views," he said. "It makes it harder for anybody to change if you force them into a corner."

Why aren't LGBT people included in the parade?

Back in 1991, a group of red-headed gay and lesbian Irish New Yorkers marched in the parade with Mayor Dinkins. The homophobia was so strong that Irish Catholic parade-goers booed and hissed and threw bottles at the queer marchers. The next year, the parade organizers put their foot down and banned the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization on the grounds that the parade's Catholic beliefs did not support homosexuality.

Is that legal?

Yes. In 1995 the U.S. Federal Court ruled in favor of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Catholic group that organized the parade. It found that a parade is a form of expression and free speech. It ruled that forcing the Catholic organization to admit homosexual marchers would go against its freedom of religion.

There are so many St. Patrick's Day parades. Do any of them embrace the LGBT community?

Well, de Blasio marched in the St. Pat's for All Parade in Queens on March 2 along with the Gay Officers Action League, the group Irish Queers and other elected officials who wanted to show their support for both the Irish and gay communities.

And in Boston, where a similar controversy boils, Mayor Marty Walsh tried to broker a deal between parade organizers and gay rights' groups but failed.

Chicago's parade, however, has been allowing the gay community to march since the mid-1990's.


Julianne Welby


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Comments [4]

DJR from nyc

LGBT people are prohibited from marching in thee parade!! They are prohibited from advertising that fact. There is a big difference between how you portray the situation and the reality of the situation.

Mar. 20 2014 03:22 AM

LGBT people march openly in St. Patrick's Day Parades in Ireland.

Mar. 17 2014 03:17 PM
Olga Romero from NewYork

Pope Francis has expressed acceptance for gays around the world. Could it be that the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day parade are more Catholic than the Pope? What would Jesus do? Where is the love and mercy and charity of the Catholic church? People should boycott the parade until the organizers stop discriminating against certain groups. Isn't their hatred a sin?
O. Romero

Mar. 17 2014 10:50 AM
Brian barnett from Manahatten

Everbody knows that no political group can carry a banner Bobbie kennendy was almost banned in 1968 because he was going to carry presidental banners. Pro life groups are banned from using banners. so why should gay political group be any diffrent.

Mar. 17 2014 10:15 AM

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