Irish Voice senior editor DEBBIE McGOLDRICK feels that the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade doesn’t exclude gays, and that the yearly controversy could be solved with the creation of a new Irish gay group.
I’ve brought my daughter to the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade on a number of occasions. I wouldn’t really mind bringing her again this year, but Alana is 14 now and spending a day with her mother at a parade ranks low on her list of cool things to do.
I read Colin Broderick’s piece on the opposite page with interest. I agree with many of his points. Discrimination against gays, or any group of people for that matter, is repellent.
The Catholic Church’s stance against gay marriage is illogical to me. I look at it simplistically – we’re all supposed to be God’s children, yes? Surely then He would want us all to cherish each other and treat each other equally?
As Lady Gaga sings in “Born This Way,” her anthem to equality, God makes no mistakes. We are ALL created equal, and we should ALL have equal rights. End of story. But unfortunately, the very flawed human condition often gets in the way.
Gays have faced disgusting discrimination in the past, and in way too many quarters that’s still the case.
A gay couple living in, say, Texas that wants a marriage license? Not happening, because they’re the same sex.
Partners not being able to make life decisions for each other when one falls ill? An inhumane reality for too many gay people.
Verbal abuse, beatings and even murder due to sexual orientation? Gays are all too familiar with those horrors.
Politicians going out of their way to encode anti-gay measures in our laws? Check.
So discrimination against gays is prevalent; of that there can be no question. But in my opinion, such discrimination does not exist in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Gays can march in the parade, and I’m sure that a decent number do. No one ever said they couldn’t. There’s no form to fill out in order to march, no box to tick asking about sexual orientation.
You think all of those marching band members are straight? All of the pipers, firefighters, cops and school groups? Of course not. But yet they march in their thousands year in and year out to celebrate one of the great days on the New York City calendar.
The dispute that generates annual headlines – and this year more than most because of the changing of the guard at City Hall – centers on the “exclusion” of gay groups from marching in the parade.
But what gay groups, exactly? Is there a genuine Irish gay group that applied to march this year and was denied?
I use the word Irish because this is an Irish parade after all, right? Shouldn’t some sort of Irish identity or ethos be a pre-requisite to joining the line of march with a banner? Just as support for gay rights would obviously be essential to take part in the annual Gay Pride parade?
From what I can see, an Irish gay group that celebrates its heritage 12 months of the year – and not just to make noise in March – doesn’t exist. And I’m wondering why that’s the case.
We’ve got all kinds of clubs and groups in our community. A huge number of GAA teams. Practically every county has an association. There’s the Irish Business Organization, IN-NYC, AOH groups, Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform . . . I could go on and on.
But other than Brendan Fay’s extremely laudable St. Pat’s for All which exists to organize the annual all-inclusive parade in Queens, I don’t see any other gay Irish group out there. And that’s a shame, because the need for one has never been more urgent.
Here’s the outline of a gay group that I would fully support taking part in the New York City parade, and I bet, or at least hope, that many others would agree.
For example, let’s call the group Irish American Gays. They meet once a month or so to discuss their shared interests, their heritage, all the political developments that are affecting their lives. They have guest speakers, they organize outings, they have a presence in the Irish American community by supporting and working with other groups, that sort of thing.
In other words, Irish American Gays exists to promote both a gay identity and an Irish identity. And it’s out and proud 365 days a year.
I would think the membership would be substantial. And the welcome from fellow Irish groups would be earnest.
I completely understand it would take much time and effort to organize such a group and keep it going, and time is a precious commodity for so many of us living over-scheduled lives. But I think the payoff would be more than worth the effort.
The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade do a great job of putting together one of the city’s biggest public events. That’s no easy feat, so full credit where credit is due. And I don’t believe that committee members are homophobic.
However, it has to be said that they are losing the public relations battle, badly. We live in a media-centric city, so getting your message across counts. Most of the reports I’ve read about the parade since new Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wasn’t going to march end pretty much like this – “a spokesperson for the parade committee was not available.”
Why is no one from the parade out there putting forth the truth that gays can march in the same way that every other participant marches?
This is no time for silence. Look what happens in its place. Vultures like new City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James swoop in and use the “exclusionary” parade to pander to their base by asking de Blasio to ban city workers from marching in uniform.
Please. As if these two really give a damn about the Irish. Imagine if the cops and firefighters were barred from marching in uniform? The parade would turn into a riot.
De Blasio clearly recognized that, but how disturbing is it to note that this is now what passes for leadership in New York – far-left politicians equating gay rights with a cop’s right to march on Fifth Avenue in uniform. Ugh.
Though I firmly feel that the New York City parade doesn’t discriminate against gays, for many reasons the parade committee must take a fresh look at the gay banner issue and reach a compromise.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s not going anywhere for a while. The de Blasio administration could get very stingy with the necessary parade permits next year, and maybe take other steps to curtail the march.
There’s also the matter of how the Irish in New York are portrayed come St. Patrick’s Day – as a bunch of conservative bigots who won’t let gays march in their parade. That’s not who we are at all, but that’s the perception seeping out there.
What’s the headline we’ll be seeing on March 18? “Pols, Gays Boycott Parade.” Until there’s some common ground reached on the issue, you can kiss the “Irish Pride” coverage goodbye.
Even politicians in Ireland are being sucked into the controversy. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny says he’ll march in New York, while another visiting minister, Joan Burton, says she’ll pass, even though she participated a few years ago. They must be thinking that the annual government visit to New York is becoming more of a headache than a pleasure.
So while the parade committee has its work cut out, it’s incumbent that gay Irish Americans come together and meet them halfway. I’d love to see a positive, proactive, year-round gay Irish organization take its rightful place in both our community and the Fifth Avenue line of march.
Perhaps Brendan Fay’s group in Queens could be broadened into a bigger mission; I don’t know. But the Irish American gay presence in our community should be just as pronounced as the GAA, the IBO and so on. And right now, it’s not.
The new group would apply for permission to march with its banner and pledge to abide by parade rules. The parade committee would be foolish in the extreme to say no. In fact I’d say they wouldn’t have much of a choice.
I’d be delighted to show support for such a group by marching behind its banner. I’d even make my daughter do the same. I don’t think she’d wear pink like Colin’s little girl, but we’d have a great day out all the same.
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