In contrast to the furor in New York, Seattle had a LGBT Irish senator lead their Saint Patrick’s Day parade and she got an incredible welcome.
Washington state native Katherine Zappone, who is a now a member of the Irish parliament and lives in Dublin, returned to serve as the parade's grand marshal at this year’s festivities.
Her only regret, she says, was that Irish leader Enda Kenny did not march with her rather than in the New York parade, which bars gay groups.
The independent senator told the Irish Times, “The Taoiseach says it is all about being Irish, but my sexuality is integral to my being Irish,” Zappone said. “He appointed me to the Seanad as a lesbian married woman, so it is very disappointing that he should adopt this attitude.”
Zappone was invited to head the parade by John F. Keane, Ireland’s honorary consul in Seattle – on behalf of “the Irish community at large,” and the Irish Heritage Club.
Senator Zappone and her wife Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan met at Boston College and celebrated a life-partnership ceremony in 1982 before they moved to Dublin.
“She was the first Irish woman I ever met,” says Zappone.
Gilligan was not in attendance in Seattle this year, but Zappone’s brothers and sisters were marching with her, along with all her old classmates from Holy Names Academy.
The parade this year was a special occasion as Ed Murray, the Mayor of Seattle, is the first gay elected mayor for the city.
Murray has kept in touch with those Irish roots all his life and has traced them to Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Patrickswell, Co. Limerick and Co. Down. “If I hadn’t entered politics I might have lived in Ireland,” he has said. Indeed, he spent a year in Belfast in 1974 working as a peace-line volunteer at the height of The Troubles, dealing with both sides. It taught him the "value of dialogue, the dangers of parochialism" and "the need to walk in the other person’s shoes."
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore