No brewers, and no mayor in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade


Spectators watch the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston, Sunday, March 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

If there’s no beer, and no mayor, does it still count as a St. Patrick’s Day parade?

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is boycotting today’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because of organizers’ refusal to allow gay groups to march openly in the parade. Heineken, Sam Adams, and Guinness have all pulled their sponsorship for the same reason.

Guinness, the last brewing company to remain as a sponsor, faced pressure from New York gay bars before it made the announcement. The Stonewall Inn, known as the birthplace of the modern gay civil rights movement, said it would boycott Guinness when the Irish brewer was still planning to sponsor the parade.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh, the city’s first Irish-American mayor in 20 years, missed his city’s parade Sunday in protest as well. Walsh worked into the night Saturday to negotiate with Boston’s Allied War Veterans Council, but they failed to reach an agreement with MassEquality, a Massachusetts gay rights organization. MassEquality wanted gay veterans to be able to march in the parade with their own banner and the American, Irish, and rainbow flags.

The council and the parade’s grand marshal, Brian Mahoney, said no, flexing the right bestowed upon them by a 1993 federal court ruling that was later upheld by the Supreme Court. The parades, which are run by private organizations, cannot explicitly ban gays, but they have the right to ban groups marching with gay rights banners. As such, there were gays in Boston’s parade marching with a “diversity float” that sported seven canons, each spitting ribbons a different color of the rainbow. The neighborhood group behind the diversity float had Mahoney’s blessing. Even though Massachusetts was the first state to issue gay marriage licenses, there are still some holdouts, one resident told “Time.”

“There are some dissidents and it happens that a few of them run the parade,” says Susan Ulrich, a South Boston native who is active in the city’s LGBT community. “The people who run the parade are fighters, for better or worse. I grew up in a kind and gracious place. But if you back them into a corner, they will fight. If you look at the way the Irish were treated in this country, and the way the LGBT community treated, they’re remarkably similar. Both communities had to fight very hard. But communities that have to fight for every single thing they have, it dies hard.”

The Chicago River being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 15, 2014. (AP Photo/ Paul Beaty) The Chicago River being dyed green ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago, Saturday, March 15, 2014. (AP Photo/ Paul Beaty)

New York and Boston have two of the largest and most influential populations of Irish Catholics in the country, but they also appear to be holdouts. Chicago is also known for its St. Patrick’s Day bash – the city even dyes the Chicago River green – and its parade has included gay groups since the 1990s. Gay groups march openly in Dublin, Galway, and other Irish cities without issue.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is also being excluded from Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because it is an LGBT organization.

 

For more stories like this see Morning Mix.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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Fred Barbash · March 17, 2014