Only three St. Patrick's Day parades in America welcome gays as a group to march.

Two are in San Francisco and Key West Florida - both cities with very large Gay communities .

The third is a specially organized gay and lesbian led St. Patrick's celebration in Queens, New York usually attended by Mayor Bloomberg and other powerful political figures .

Ironically, in Ireland, where attitudes to gays are far behind those in many American cities, gays are welcome in both the Dublin and Cork marches, the two largest.

There are many and complex reasons why gays are so excluded from American marches, the much larger role of the Catholic Church for instance in the New York parade is one, but isn't it high time we got rid of the excuses that prevent gays from marching from coast to coast?

Isn't it time we of the heterosexual Irish community here in America extended that hand of friendship to gays in more marches? What on earth are we afraid of? They are our brothers, sisters, fellow workers, friends and family.

Some of the great heroes of Irish history such as Roger Casement and possibly Patrick Pearse were gay. Some of our great writers such as Oscar Wilde and Church leaders were undoubtedly gay also .One of the great heroes of 9/11, Father Mychal Judge, openly admitted he was gay. Was he any less a hero as a result?

So what's the big deal? What are we so afraid of ?

At a time when the military is reviewing its 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' it may be time we had our own Irish version of that I'll call 'Don't march, Go to hell" removed.

We are bigger than exclusion, better than keeping fellow Irish people out. We suffered enough exclusion in our time from 'No Irish Need Apply' in America to 'No Irish, Blacks or dogs' in Britain.

It's time we put up the Cead Mile Failte signs ( A hundred thousand welcomes) to all Irish irrespective of color, creed, or sexual orientation on St. Patrick's Day. It is beyond time actually. Who will be first to step forward?