Catholic League's Bill Donohue Seems a Little Nervous About Actually Marching in the Gay Pride Parade [Updated]
One-man outrage machine Bill Donohue, president and evidently the sole member of the Catholic League, has asked for and received permission from the NYC Pride March, a.k.a. the gay pride parade, to march with them in June. Donohue says he wants to hold a banner with the words "Straight Is Great." Bill Donohue has a lot of time on his hands. But we suspect he's not actually going to march in the parade. Join us, won't you, as we march resolutely down this rabbit hole of trollery?
Update, 5:30 p.m.: We're psychic! The full update's at the bottom of this post.
Donohue is well known for his opposition to gay marriage, though he'll often insist, not super convincingly, that he has nothing against gays. His request to march in the pride parade is, as you might have guessed, a response to this year's St. Patrick's Day controversy, when Mayor Bill de Blasio and a large contingent of the City Council declined to march because the St. Pat's folks don't permit openly gay people or groups to participate. Donohue argues that the St. Patrick's Day organizers have every right to exclude whatever group they wish, and is one of those calling for a boycott on Guinness to protest their decision to pull out of the parade.
Fine. Great. But Donohue's next move -- asking to participate in the pride parade, in the apparent hopes that he'd be turned down and could be outraged at the Hypocrisy of the Gays -- has not gone quite the way he expected. Now, he's in the awkward position of having to actually march in the Pride Parade. This is going to be great.
Yesterday, Donohue announced to Steve Malzberg, a talk show host on the conservative news site Newsmax, that he'd applied to march in the pride parade.
"I went to the managing director of the Heritage of Pride Parade and ... said, listen, I want to march under my own banner, 'Straight Is Great,' in the 2014 Heritage of Pride Parade. Do you agree?" he said. "Are they going to let me do it or not? I'm waiting to see what they want to say."
Heritage of Pride, also known as NYC Pride, the organization who puts on the parade, promptly and cheerily put out a press release saying yes, Bill, come on over.
"Mr. Donohue and his group are free to participate in the 2014 March," David Studinski, the March Director of NYC Pride, is quoted as saying. "His group's presence affirms the need for this year's Pride theme, 'We Have Won When We're One.' Straight is great - as long as there's no hate."
The Irish Queers protest at the 2014 St. Patrick's Day Parade
Photo by Jenna Pope
After presumably taking a moment to blot his brow and self-administer smelling salts, Donohue hastily reappeared on Newsmax to say that yes, well, he's being allowed to march in the parade technically, but first the gays are making him attend an insidious "training session," and will probably make him wear a big gay t-shirt.
"The initial response was, 'Okay, you have to come for a training session for the marshal and what to do,'' Donohue told Malzberg. "I said, 'Okay, I understand you have rules that people have to wear LGBT paraphernalia and the like. Now they're dancing. They're saying, 'Well, you're not really a corporation as such and we have our own rules and whatnot.'"
Donohue says he's "still waiting for a final answer" on whether he'll be allowed to march with his "Straight is Great" banner, and whether his members, should they exist, can wear matching t-shirts.
It sure seems to us like the pride folks have already given him a cordial yes, and furthermore, a quick read of the Pride March rules indicates that he's not being asked to do anything out of the ordinary. As a Group Leader, Donohue has to attend a training session where he can pick up his permit and hear from the parade marshal how the lineup for the event works. It's not an LGBT Training Camp. Sorry to disappoint, Mr. Donohue.
As for the ironclad gay t-shirt requirement, actually, the parade rules aren't saying you have to wear one. That rule is to make sure that corporations don't march with big banners and t-shirts with their logos on them. "Any signs or banners must indicate that it is the Pride or LGBT group that is marching and not the corporation," the rules say. "The name of the Pride group must be in a font no less than twice the size of the corporate name or logo." It's to prevent the parade from becoming a big commercial, Mr. Donohue, and in any case, it only applies to corporations who make over $10 million a year, which we imagine is not a problem for you.
So really, Donohue's claim that the pride march organizers are throwing up unreasonable roadblocks to keep him from participating is a little disingenuous. It seems almost like an excuse to keep from having to march with a bunch of terrifying happy gay folks, does it not?
But it looks like excuses just won't fly here. Better get to decorating that float, sir!
Update: Shock! Absolutely real and not feigned surprise! Donohue has announced that because of the "gay training sessions," he shan't be marching. Now, after a little bit of logical twisting and turning, he gets to do what he was really itching to in the first place and call the Pride folks hypocritical.
It does seem like a man of Bill Donohue's robust heterosexuality could withstand a few hours around gay people, but perhaps this is for the best.
Here's his full statement:
Bill Donohue comments on his exchange with officials from New York's Heritage of Pride parade:
For the past few days I have been engaged in an e-mail conversation with officials from the Heritage of Pride parade, New York's annual gay event; the dialogue has been cordial. I asked to join the parade under a banner that would read, "Straight is Great." The purpose of my request was to see just how far they would go without forcing me to abide by their rules. It didn't take long before they did.
Today, I informed Heritage of Pride officials that I objected to their rule requiring me to attend gay training sessions, or what they call "information" sessions. "I don't agree with your rule," I said. They responded by saying that attendance was "mandatory."
The St. Patrick's Day parade has mandatory rules, too. It bars groups representing their own cause from marching, which is why pro-life Catholics--not just gays--are barred from participating under their own banner. But only gays complain: they refuse to abide by the rules. Indeed, they went into federal court seeking to force a rule change. They lost. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that private parades have a First Amendment right to determine their own rules.
It is hypocritical for gay activists to complain about having to abide by the mandatory rules of the St. Patrick's Day parade, and then inform me that I cannot march in their parade unless I respect their mandatory rules, rules that I reject.
Good luck to the Heritage of Pride participants. I may be watching it from afar, but I sure won't be downing a Guinness afterwards.
Donohue's full appearance on Newsmax is after the jump.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.