New York’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade has long barred openly gay and lesbian groups from marching in its ranks, and now LGBT leaders are fighting back. An open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio posted to Gay City News yesterday was signed dozens of activists and community members, and calls for no city officials to participate in the parade in uniform. Here’s an excerpt, via Capital New York.
More than twenty years ago, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization sought to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue and was excluded. In 1993, parade organizers used a court case to declare it a private, religious procession whose anti-gay message would be controverted by the presence of an identifiable Irish LGBTQ group — even though LGBTQ groups are welcome in St. Patrick’s Day parades all over Ireland.
From then on, City leaders supportive of LGBTQ rights and dignity have boycotted the parade. But the Police Commissioner and thousands of uniformed police, organized by their precincts, have marched every year in this explicitly anti-gay parade. Firefighters and other City personnel also march every year in their official capacity.
The letter goes on to ask action from de Blasio: “We are asking you to direct all City departments not to organize marchers for or allow personnel to participate in this anti-LGBTQ procession either in uniform or with any banner that identifies them with the City.”
Signees include current and former city public advocates Letitia James, Betsy Gotbaum and Mark Green, as well as state senators, Assembly members, and City Council members.
As Capital points out, de Blasio boycotted the parade last year, during his mayoral campaign. However, as the open letter notes, thousands of police officers and firefighters march in uniform every year. Will the mayor have the guts to call them down? And if so, would the threat of a parade without cops be enough to get organizers to open their doors to LGBT people? It would give New York a chance to catch up with Dublin, which has allowed and celebrated gay groups in its St. Patty’s parade for years.
UPDATE: Mayor de Blasio won’t be marching in the parade, but says he respects other city official’s right to participate, according to NY1.
(Photo: Charley Lhasa)