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New York Notes: Irish and Gay, City’s #2 Official Sits Out St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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The annual controversy over the barring of gay groups from the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade has taken an added dimension this year with the ascension of Christine Quinn, who is both Irish and openly gay, to the Speakership of the City Council. Now the city’s second most powerful elected official, Quinn has decided to sit out today’s event, having tried and failed to reach a compromise with its organizing body, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade — the oldest and largest in the world, dating back to 1762, according to — does not bar openly gay individuals, but prohibits gays from marching as organized groups under gay-themed banners. Yet, having been for many years one of the city’s biggest annual parties, the Parade can arguably be said to have outgrown its ethnic-religious origin and become a civic and partly secular event. It is certainly a march that local politicians rarely dare to snub, whatever their ethnicity or political views.

Still, even if we grant leeway to the religious sensitivities of the Ancient Order — the Parade is, after all, named for a Catholic saint, the patron of an overwhelmingly Catholic nation — Parade chairman John Dunleavy went beyond defending his creed and uttered what borders on hate speech when he told the Irish Times, “If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?”

Dunleavy’s very pointed analogy implies that gays are to the Irish what the Nazis were to the Jews or the KKK to blacks: murderous, genocidal enemies. Council Speaker Quinn has been politic, admirably taking the high road with her efforts at compromise and principled but measured response to its failure. I’d be seething with anger if I were gay and Irish — or gay and anything, for that matter — and a civic leader compared me to a Nazi just because of my sexual orientation.

If Dunleavy didn’t mean such a thing — if he was merely making a poor analogy — I’d be interested to hear it from him.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • Victor Lana

    Excellent post, Jon. I commend Christine Quinn for taking a stand. This is just sickening garbage because none of this has to do with anything but politics, and Quinn rightly chooses to defend the rights of all Irish people (gay or straight) to mark the day in the parade.

    Besides, religious sensitivities be damned! Since the parade is for a Catholic saint, we should remember that Jesus welcomed everyone into his circle, so to ostracize one group for whatever the reason seems decidedly un-Christian.

  • Jon Sobel

    Good point, Victor. But I’ve found the “that’s un-Christian” tack never seems to work. Some Christians have no interest in anything Jesus actually said or stood for.

  • http://Getoverit... Someone Sane.

    It’s not hate speech. The guy simply was making the point, with exaggeration to make it abundantly clear, that he shouldn’t have to invite people into his parade that he doesn’t want there. He shouldn’t be forced to put his group’s stamp of approval on gay activism.

    There is nothing wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned. The comparison was simply to make it clear that nazis, etc., were groups that the others would not want in their parades — maybe the guy realizes that most Irish Catholics don’t think gay activism is appropriate in a parade celebrating a _Saint_.

    I am not ‘against’ homosexuality per se, but there are certainly places and times where activism may be either stupid or inappropriate, especially when forced on a group against their will…

  • EP

    I disagree. This isn’t about gay activism. This is about certain Irish people not being allowed to march in the parade because of their sexual orientation. That’s just discrimination. The people who march in this parade are celebrating their rich cultural heritage. Why should Irish people who happen to be gay have any less of an opportunity to do the same?

  • Neil

    These are irish expats clinging to values that are long gone in Ireland itself. It’s sad really, about as truly irish as green-dyed Guinness.

  • Jon Sobel

    “Someone Sane”: you’re interpreting what Dunleavy said based on your guess at what he meant. I’m taking what he said literally. Can’t argue with you because we just don’t know.

    Good to hear you’re not “against” homosexuality, whatever that means. I agree there are places where in-your-face activism may be inappropriate, but marching peacefully under a gay-themed banner in a huge parade hardly constitutes that, IMHO.

  • vibrantflame

    Okay, well first of all Dunleavy’s comments, no matter how he meant it, come across as highly offensive and I think he should apologize for what he said. However, in regards to the N.Y St. Patty’s Day Parade, I don’t really think there is anything wrong with what they’re doing. They are not banning gay people from being in the parade. They are saying that a bunch of gay people can’t march together under a gay-themed banner, thus making a “gay pride” comment to anyone who sees it. As someone else pointed out, St. Patty’s Day is about celebrating your rich “cultural” heritage, not about celebrating your sexual orientation. As well, I have heard many gay people complain that other people make too much of a big deal out of the fact that they are gay…i.e. “oh did you hear about so-and-so being gay?” “this is joe. he’s gay” etc. So why is there a need to declare your sexual orientation to millions of people during a parade that is supposed to be about being Irish? If this was just about them barring gay people from the parade, I would have a problem with that because I don’t feel anyone should be treated differently because of their sexual preference (even if I don’t believe it’s right). However, it’s just the parade officials saying they don’t want gay activism to be promoted during a parade thats focusing on being Irish.

  • Aindriu

    Well said vibrantflame! i have just one request though and this isnt a dig ok but AMERICANS STOP CALLING HIM PATTY!!!! his name was PADDY! not one irish person calls him patty and you have no idea how annoying its is to here good old paddy being called bloody patty. ARGH! sorry:)

  • Che

    Vibrantflame, being gay is about more than sexual orientation, its about relationships, friendships, community, politics, health and a whole host of complexities. I don’t see anyone wanting to fly a “Sodomy and handcuffs” banner, or a “Vanilla is good enough for me” banner, they want to carry a banner that conveys their sense of community.

    I am assuming, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that other groups of like-minded people are allowed to march under a banner that designates their community and their relationship to one another, whether its the Irish Pub-owners or the Irish cat-lovers or whatever. People who are Irish and who are a part of the gay community are not allowed the same participation.

  • Miranda Mullen

    I have been a supporter (but mostly bystander) of the St. Patrick’s day protest by Irish Queers. One thing that seems fishy in all this is, why wasn’t Christine Quinn at the protest? And apparently Irish Queers wasn’t part of her negotiations with the AOH either — not invited. If she does get to march, would she march without Irish Queers, more or less shunting them aside after their 16 years of work to set her up for her glory moment? An editorial in Gay City News sort of asked this question last week, but I haven’t seen any answer from Quinn.