You’ve heard the saying that one can never be too rich or too thin, right?
Well, apparently, you can’t be too gay either. And as far as the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade goes, it seems like the LGBT group selected for inclusion for the first time just isn’t gay enough. And they’re definitely not Irish enough.
Oh, and the group, OUT@NBCUniversal, is connected to a giant corporation, NBC, that broadcasts the parade and makes – gasp! -- MONEY. You know, that dirty stuff we all need from time to time for things like shelter and food? That makes these poor folks even more distasteful.
Where to begin with the ongoing saga titled St. Patrick’s Day on Fifth Avenue?
The issue of identifiable LGBT inclusion in the march dates back to the 1990s. It’s been a long road, filled with yearly protests that were jolted with a fresh breath of life last year when new mayor Bill de Blasio boycotted the parade and a number of sponsors also withdrew.
From a PR point of view the 2014 parade was a debacle. The 253-year-old celebration was widely portrayed as bigoted and exclusionary – even though it’s not because anyone can march, but more on that later.
The wiser heads who organize the parade realized that a repeat performance in 2015 couldn’t happen for any number of reasons. Yes, sponsorship and finances and all those other grubby realities that help pay the bills came into play – the horror! – but I also know for a fact that many parade leaders have never had the slightest problem with a gay group marching in the parade. Last year’s mess strengthened their resolve to finally deal with LGBT inclusion.
So they made a leap last September. OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBT employee group of NBC, whose local New York affiliate broadcasts the parade, was granted a place in the line of march this year. To add to the significance of the move, Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave his blessing by agreeing to serve as grand marshal.
A gesture was made, and it was a big one. Cardinal Dolan was blasted in many so-called religious quarters for standing with the parade committee – any quick Google search will show that.
Was the inclusion of the NBC group a perfect solution? Nope – but it was a huge step that’s not getting anywhere near the recognition it deserves.
There’s a great case to be made that Brendan Fay’s group, Lavender and Green Alliance, which has organized the St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens for the past 16 years, should have been the parade committee’s first choice. Fay and his fellow members have worked tirelessly for years not only on LGBT matters but other issues of Irish interest, and they’d be more than worthy to march with their banner on Fifth Avenue.
That unfortunately didn’t happen for 2015. And that’s the crux of the argument the protestors, once again led by Mayor de Blasio, are making – the chosen gay group isn’t an Irish gay group, so why do they get to march while everyone else doesn’t?
Well. Okay. An Irish gay group wasn’t chosen this time around. But should all of the other marching units on Fifth Avenue meet the same standard demanded by the LGBT protestors, that if you’re not an Irish group you’re less acceptable, and less entitled to celebrate the holiday? We’d have a seriously shortened parade if that was the case.
There are groups – some of them even Irish! – that have been denied a place in the line of march, which annually boasts more than 300 units and many more that would like to join. But it’s simply not possible to accommodate everyone.
So OUT@NBCUniversal gets to march but, really, that’s just money talking, the parade dinosaurs forced into a decision solely based on commerce and not inclusivity, yadda yadda.
Never mind the fact that NBC’s ties to the event run deep. The network’s local affiliate has aired the march live for years. NBC executive Francis Comerford was grand marshal in 2012. He not only remains on the parade committee but is involved in other Irish causes as well.
The members of OUT@NBCUniversal must be wondering about this poisoned chalice they’ll drink from on March 17. They’ve been blamed and shamed by members of their own LGBT community for being corporate and not Irish and pawns for the parade leadership. How’s that for the spirit of inclusivity that protesters say they’re so devoted to?
The OUT people may well have relished the chance to talk about their historic participation in the parade, and advocate for further LGBT inclusion in the years ahead. But no one from OUT is really out there at all, and who can blame them?
No one has stuck his neck out more here than Cardinal Dolan. The archbishop of New York, the most powerful and influential Catholic leader in the U.S., leading a St. Patrick’s Day parade with a gay group for the first time? Imagine that happening even a year or two ago?
“By personally leading the procession, [Dolan] blesses the whole shameful affair. That’s a slap in the face to anyone who ever took strength from the Lorica of St. Patrick,” wrote an enraged hater on the Crisis Magazine website – one of the kinder remarks that’s been aimed in the cardinal’s direction.
Mayor de Blasio will boycott the march again. It’s not really surprising. He clearly doesn’t think it’s important to take a Cardinal Dolan-like jump to acknowledge the parade has moved towards inclusivity – not as big a move as he would have liked, but a move nonetheless.
Perhaps the mayor should also take into account the importance of the parade from a financial point of view to the city’s businesses – everything from hotels, restaurants/bars and tourist attractions that make tens of millions from the biggest march on the city calendar. But that would be bringing the filthy M word – money – into the frame, and of course we shouldn’t sully ourselves by considering that.
There’s a place in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade for all marchers. Gay, straight, divorced, atheist, young, old, black, white … all are welcome to join the line of march with whatever college, county group, civic association, etc., they feel most comfortable with.
The truth is, for the vast majority of parade-goers, all they want to do is enjoy a day on Fifth Avenue to celebrate their Irish pride and heritage. They’re not bigots, they’re not homophobes. They don’t want to play politics on March 17.
They just want to march. Period. Is that really so wrong?
I have a question for all the LGBT protesters who say they are intent on celebrating their Irish heritage in an inclusive way. Where were you all at the Rockaway parade last Saturday?
It’s a fantastic event, 40 years old now, that marches through the heart of the Rockaway Peninsula, one of the most Irish places in the U.S. Mayor de Blasio was there along with a host of other city officials, and thousands took to the streets for a great day.
The Rockaway parade welcomes everyone, including gay groups. It’s always been that way. Even the mayor admitted he goofed last year by not marching because he thought the opposite.
But yet no gay group – Irish or otherwise – applies to march. Not this year, not last year. Why is that?
Why not make the short hop to a place where you could celebrate Irish heritage and culture among open arms? Isn’t that your stated goal? To march with an identifying banner in a St. Patrick’s parade to proudly mark the holiday?
Rockaway isn’t Manhattan, but it’s not hard to get to – in fact you can even see the city skyline past Jamaica Bay. The locals, some of whom are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, are hardcore Irish and extremely proud. The St. Patrick’s parade is one of the highlights of their year.
The sun shone brightly on Saturday. There were marching bands and Irish dancers and a festive atmosphere. You would have had a ball. Yet no LGBT group could be bothered to show up.
So what’s the protest about exactly? Is it solely about marching on Fifth Avenue and the attendant media attention, or is really and truly about Irish pride?
If it’s the latter, maybe I’ll see you in the Rockaways next year. And, who knows, maybe Manhattan too.