On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, as we all lay out green T-shirts for the morning and snuggle down in our beds, dreaming of Guinness, we might think about those who won't be included in tomorrow's festivities - gay Irish Americans who aren't allowed to march in the New York City parade.
The 249-year-old parade is a private event run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), which is a Roman Catholic religious organization. While they don't specifically disallow homosexuals to march with other organizations (a gay firefighter would presumably be allowed to march with the FDNY, strictly in a firefighter capacity), they don't let gay groups participate.
The LGBT community has mixed responses to this. A group called Irish Queers will be holding its annual protest on 57th Street and 5th Avenue starting at 11:00 a.m. They demand to be included in the celebration of Irish heritage that draws tens of thousands of spectators and has come to symbolize St. Patrick's Day in New York.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an openly gay Irish-American, has spoken out against the parade's exclusionary policies and chooses to march in the open-to-all Queens County St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The blog Queerty argues that the gays shouldn't bother to try to get into the parade, that since it's a private event, the AOH has every right to exclude whomever it wishes, and that if it they were forced to allow gays to march in their parade, it might open the door for anti-gay groups to march in pride parades.
That's an interesting point, but faulty. Because the Irish gay groups want to march in the parade because they're Irish, not because they're anti-hetero.
Tomorrow, I'm going to check out the protest, the parade, and many pubs. I'll be carrying my video camera and hope to interview a cross-section of St. Patrick's Day revelers to find out what the day means to them.
Here's a teaser, me on St. Patrick's Day 2009.
I have to see if I still have those googly shamrock antennae...