255th Fifth Ave event will include 320 Irish affiliate groups, 150 bands, and celebrate Easter Rising.Stamford Advocate

History has been made with the choice of openly gay Connecticut State Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald as the 2016 grand marshal of the Stamford St. Patrick’s Day parade next March 6, one of the largest on the East Coast.

Significantly, the Catholic Church has given its seal of approval to the decision by parade organizers.“The diocese respects the decision of the committee,“ Diocese of Bridgeport spokesperson Brian D. Wallace told the “Stamford Advocate,” which broke the story. “It’s a day of inclusiveness. It’s a day people drop their differences. We hope people have a good day and enjoy the parade.”

The chairman of the Stamford parade committee, Michael Feighan, told the “Advocate” that McDonald “meets all the criteria” for selection as grand marshal. He has taken part in the parade for many years, Feighan added.

McDonald has made no effort to conceal his sexual preference. His biography on the State of Connecticut’s Judicial Branch website closes with the sentence, “Justice McDonald and his husband Charles live in Stamford.”

Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald. Credit: Stamford Advocate

Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald. Credit: Stamford Advocate

McDonald has clashed with the Catholic Church in Connecticut before, in 2009 when he was a state senator. He proposed a controversial bill to regulate the church’s finances, removing parish priests and bishops from their oversight positions and delegating the power to a lay board.

In a statement to the “Advocate,” McDonald said, “I would imagine my personal life played little if any role in their selection. Having said that, I think it definitely demonstrated how open the Irish community is. I’ve known the members of the St. Patrick’s Day Committee for decades and all of them have embraced the diversity of the Irish American community in Stamford for the entirety of that period of time.”

Brendan Fay, founder of the New York-based Lavender and Green Alliance, which will march under its own banner for the first time on March 17in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, hailed the decision by the Stamford parade leaders.

“This is a marvelous breakthrough for Stamford and the nation,” Fay told the Advocate.