With only weeks to go, the possibility of a donnybrook on Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day looms large.
The immovable object, the Parade Committee, is standing firm on the issue of gays marching in the parade. The irresistible force is the gay community, emboldened by victories in gay marriage and other issues both federally and across the states.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set the issue alight again by refusing to march up Fifth Avenue on March 17. The new mayor is scheduled to march in the St. Pat’s for All parade in Queens on March 2 run by LGBT activist Brendan Fay, but unlike his predecessor Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s clearly not trying to appease both sides.
There are dozens of ethnic parades in New York every year from Israeli Day to Columbus Day to Indian Day to Chinese New Year — you name it.
In an article in the Irish Voice last week, we noted how every parade in the city had found a way to resolve the issue of gays marching. In some cases, as in the Israeli parade, it took over a dozen years to resolve the issue. In others it was sorted out right away.
The Irish parade should be no different. Some of our most famous legacy figures such as Roger Casement and Oscar Wilde were gay, and there is a spirit of tolerance abroad in Ireland on this issue, with gay marriage likely to be approved next year in a referendum.
We here in America should learn from that spirit. It is only a few years ago that Ireland was a cold house for LGBT activists. Now it seems the exact opposite. Indeed this week, when a leading former rugby player, Neil Francis, ridiculed gays in sport he was quickly forced to apologize.
The intertwining with the Catholic Church here remains a problem, as there are very different doctrines when it comes to how the church handles this issue.
But Pope Francis has introduced a new era of openness into the church, famously remarking, “Who am I to judge?” when asked about the gay lifestyle.
Oh you are no one Pope Francis — just the spiritual leader of two billion people on Earth. If the church adopted the pope’s message of tolerance it would directly impact on the parade in New York.
There are reasons to suppose that a solution can be worked out, but all the solutions involve the LGBT community being recognized and taking part in the parade.
That is the line in the sand, the principle that cannot be denied them. That is more important a principle than any banners or signs declaring their identity.
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade should become inclusive at last, blocking no Irish group that desires to march.
What a great story that would be about the newly inclusive Irish. We would be feted rather than vilified, and the all-important image of our community would be upheld.
As Kermit the Frog once said, it’s not easy being green, especially when there is a clear mood now to write us off as Neanderthals unable to adjust to the modern realities.
It is time to turn the page, forge a new chapter. St. Patrick’s for all on Fifth Avenue indeed.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”