Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Following weeks of back-and-forth negotiations, the organizers of Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade have once again decided to prohibit LGBTQ groups from marching. As a result of the prolonged unpleasantness, several corporate sponsors have ended their support for the parade.

Back in February, under pressure from Boston's new mayor, Martin Walsh, it seemed that LGBT Veterans for Equality would be permitted to march as long as they refrained from broadcasting their orientation in any way. (In other words: No homosexual propaganda.)

But on March 3, officials from the Allied Veteran's War Council, which organizes the event, claimed that statewide LGBTQ advocacy group MassEquality had lied about the number of veterans who would be marching with the gay group, and it withdrew permission. AWVC has repeatedly accused MassEquality of "using a ploy to enter this parade under false pretenses." Essentially, it suggests that MassEquality manufactured the gay veterans group just so it could march.

Corporate sponsors have taken note, and many have said "Slán go fóill!" to  the South Boston parade. Earlier this month, the parade's website prominently featured the names and logos of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co.), and Gillette as primary sponsors. When Westin and Gillette officials denied their support for the march, their company logos were removed from the website. Sam Adams was listed as a sponsor until yesterday, when the brewing company formally withdrew its support. Currently, the parade's sponsor page says, "We're updating our supporters, thank you for your patience."

Irish-American communities, particularly in Boston and New York, are known for being cohesive, having a strong community spirit, and, despite tilting Democratic come election, for being socially conservative.

Back in the Ireland, however, they stand accused of being bigots.  Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny has come under fire for agreeing to participate New York's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, because it bans marchers carrying posters promoting LGBT rights. Kenny has attempted to walk a political tightrope on the question of identity, saying: "The St. Patrick's Day parade is a parade about our Irishness and not about sexuality and I would be happy to participate in it."

Nonetheless, a series of gay rights groups, supported by prominent campaigners and a trade union, have asked Kenny to cancel his plans to attend the "exclusionary" parade – something the city's mayor, Bill De Blasio, has already said he will do – or at least wear a rainbow pin badge in solidarity with gay groups.

Ireland's attitudes are changing when it comes to LGBT rights.  David Norris, an Irish senator and former professor, has been at the center of the Irish gay rights movement for four decades. In fact, it was his lawsuit against the country in the European Court of Human Rights that resulted in the country's 1993 decriminalization of homosexuality.   Norris wrote, "I find it extraordinary that Irish Americans can be so far behind the actual inhabitants of the island of Ireland; that 10 years ago the gay float won first prize in our national St. Patrick's Day."

Ireland was slow to see the march of gay rights, but much changed in the last two decades. With a yes vote in this year's referendum on gay marriage considered a foregone conclusion, Ireland is drifting ever further from the Catholicism-dominated days of yore.

Mr. Norris sees the issue as being founded in a sectarian dispute. "As an Irish man who through my mother has direct descent from the ancient kings of Ossory, Leinster, and the High Kingship of Tara," he says, "I find the claiming of the parade as an exclusively Roman Catholic festival – despite being originally founded in the US by exiled Irish Protestants – completely ridiculous," he told the Christian Science Monitor.



Will said...

What's interesting is that the South Boston Parade (Southie was the major residential base of Boston's Irish population) in which Many who have declined to march in Boston's parade will appear) has at least two floats that include out gay people and at least one of which contains major rainbow imagery. Gay migration to Southie has been strong recently, and the people behind these floats have chosen not to make any big thing of their participation; they just presented plans for a Diversity float to declare that Southie was open to everybody, got approved and they were in.

I grew up in New York, and have watched it become more exclusionary as time has gone on. The current Cardinal in NYC has done nothing to encourage inclusion, to the best of my knowledge, and I doubt anyone will see gay Irish marching openly any time soon. The alternate parade in the borough of Queens (where I grew up) is where the Mayor and many others will march.

Anonymous said...

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, Joe! May you have a wee bit of fun on this day of Irishness!

Peace <3