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As the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade marches up Fifth Avenue today, an annual protest will take place. The group Irish Queers will call out the NYPD’s participation in the event, which they say on their website “was redesigned so that anti-gay bigots could parade using the church’s special right to discriminate.” Protests have been occurring for 21 years, however, Irish Queers member Emmaia Gelman said that now her group is not fighting against parade organizer’s right to exclude openly gay and lesbian people from participating. “This protest about not allowing them to have it both ways,” she told Runnin’ Scared. “It’s can’t be both a religious anti-gay procession and include all the public servants.”
The procession’s religious connections are made clear on its website, which states that “throughout our history, the Parade has been held in honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York.”
In a statement, Irish Queers writes:
…when uniformed police march in that private, religious, anti-gay procession year after eyar, they reinforce everything LGBT people already fear: that we’re only ‘served and protect’ if individual police officers happen not to be homophobic; that the NYPD as a whole has not rejected discrimination; and that the default position of the NYPD is that queers can be targeted for discrimination unless someone notices and complains.
Over the past week others have weighed in on the long-standing controversy. Mayoral candidate and President of Manhattan Media Tom Allon explained in a Huffington Post column why he will march in the parade, while other elected officials refuse to attend:
It is misguided, I believe, for the Hibernians to exclude gay people from their parade. But we should not tarnish this great event because of politics and political correctness; we should put politics and scoring points aside on days like these and think about great New Yorkers like the late Frank McCourt, Ray Kelly and Carolyn Maloney, and thank our lucky charms that they have chosen New York as their home.
Allon’s potential opponent for mayor City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is Irish and openly gay, will boycott the event, according to the New York Daily News. “It saddens me that I cannot march as an openly gay woman of Irish descent alongside my father,” Quinn told the paper.
Mayor Bloomberg marches in the parade yearly.
Meanwhile, in the Guardian Richard Conway, a gay New York-transplant originally from Dublin, writes that the New York parade’s attitude does not reflect the tone in present-day Ireland. He explains:
Today, the Fifth Avenue committee operates a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It insists that gay people are allowed to march – so long as they don’t advertise their sexuality. To me, this attitude is outmoded, misrepresents modern Ireland, and as a Dubliner, is not something I recognize.
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.
The Irish Queers protest will be stationed on Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets on the west side of the street. The entire parade travels from 44th Street to 86th Street.
We have reached out to the NYPD, the mayor’s office and the parade office for comment and have received no response.