St. Patrick's Day Parades in NY and Boston Remain Controversial on LGBT Issues

Since St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers in Boston and New York City had both announced last year that they would each allow an openly LGBT group to march in 2015, many of us thought that the decades of controversy surrounding gay participation in this event had ended.

Not so.

The St. Patrick’s Day holiday will still be a flashpoint for debate this year concerning LGBT issues.

The Pipe Band of the NY Fire Department marches in the inclusive St. Pat’s for All parade .

In N.Y.C., which hosts one of  the largest parades in the nation, the mayor has once again decided to bow out of participation because he says that LGBT organizations are still not fully welcome.

On the other side of the political spectrum, a Boston-area Catholic school with a long tradition of marching in that city’s parade has pulled out because it doesn’t support the organizers’ decision to let an LGBT group participate. reported that N.Y.C. Mayor Bill deBlasio marched last weekend in the St. Pat’s For All Parade, an LGBT-inclusive event in Queens, N.Y., but that for the second year in a row, he would be sitting out the city’s major parade on March 17th unless a solution could be found for greater LGBT inclusion. captured the mayor’s thoughts at the inclusive parade, which was held despite frigid temperatures and a snow storm:

“When asked if he would march in the Fifth Avenue parade after taking the unprecedented decision not to last year, Mayor De Blasio said at this point he’s in discussion with the parade leaders and is not ready to make that commitment.

“ ‘I hope for some more progress with the parade in Manhattan, but there’s still time and we look forward to some additional discussion,’ he said.

“A single LGBT group marching in this years parade is a very narrow concession, Mayor De Blasio said, adding that he would like to see something more inclusive.

“ ‘A lot of people feel, and I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade,’ he said before dashing to the podium to greet the crowds.”

Only one group, LGBT employees from NBC-Universal which televises the parade, has been allowed to march in the N.Y. event.

In Boston, parade organizers also decided to allow an LGBT veterans group march, much to the pleasure of Mayor Martin Walsh, who also sat out his city’s parade last year when the organizers failed to reach an agreement to let an LGBT group march.

However, the Boston inclusive decision has angered the administrator of a local Catholic grammar school which has decided to withdraw participation of its marching band.  Brother Thomas Dalton, principal, said:

“We can’t associate with that. It would appear we were condoning it.”

Dalton said he did not consult with the Archdiocese of Boston about his decision. The archdiocese has not commented on the move.

One interesting thing that I learned in researching the parade controversy is that LGBT groups in Ireland march proudly in the St. Patrick’s Day parades in that country.  In 2012, Richard Conway wrote in The Guardian of his bewilderment with the fact that the N.Y.C. parade excluded LGBT groups:

“What this committee might be ignoring is a simple fact about modern Ireland: It’s okay with gay stuff. Recent surveys have shown that a significant majority of Irish people approve of gay marriage, with a 2012 poll showing that 73% approve of gay marriage being allowed in the country’s constitution. Civil unions have been legal in Ireland since 2010, and received all-party support. And, notably, the Dublin St Patrick’s Day parade has regularly included gay-themed floats.

“In 2010, our former president even refused an invitation to be grand marshal on the grounds that the New York parade excludes gay groups; and our current foreign minister has responded to the ban by saying that ‘exclusion is not an Irish thing.‘ “

Some here in the U.S. ague that St. Patrick’s Day parades are religious events, primarily Catholic.  If so, the organizers should focus on toning down some of the rowdiness which is associated with the parades.  In the 1980s, N.Y.’s  Cardinal Terence Cooke controversially kept Catholic schools open on St. Patrick’s Day, in violation of a tradition that made it a holiday, because he did not want youngsters to attend the parade and witness the excesses of the spectators.

If the parades are Catholic events, they should focus on the Catholic values of welcome and hospitality, and they should give up being judgmental.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article: “What lies beneath – the struggle for power within the St. Patrick’s Day parade in NYC”

3 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Very well and fairly stated, Francis. The fact that one of the most traditionally Catholic countries on the planet — Ireland — is largely and warmly welcoming toward their GLBT neighbors, friends and family members, ought to tell us something significant about the retrograde (indeed, the downright reactionary) social situation here in the United States. How and why did the Catholic Church in America get itself dug into “the losing side of history” on this issue? What are the hidden politics involved? And how (and why) do these hidden politics sandbag against the tremendous progress that’s being made in more traditional Catholic countries, such as Ireland and Italy? These are some vexing questions that are well worth pursuing. Any informed opinions out there? Please sound off, and tell us what you know.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] sponsors threatening a boycott this year only began participating in 2015 when parade organizers allowed OUTVETS to march for the first time. Despite protests from one Catholic school and the Knights of Columbus, most […]

  2. […] parade’s organizer, announced that Boston Pride would be allowed to march in addition to the already accepted group, OutVets, […]

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