NY Times Covers City's St. Patrick's Parade Controversy
Delighted this morning to have come across this article....
Councilman Daniel Dromm, left, and Brendan Fay of the Lavender and Green Alliance with Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Irish Consulate. Mr. de Blasio will march with the alliance, which represents gay Irish-Americans. CreditBryan R. Smith for The New York Times
N.Y. / REGION
Activists Recall Fight to Allow Gays in St. Patrick’s Day Parade
By WILLIAM NEUMAN MARCH 3, 2016
It was a moment that some feared might never come, after so many years of
viewing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade from the outside, politically and personally.
This year will be different.
Now that a group representing gay Irish-Americans will march in the parade,
activists choked up on Thursday as they recounted their battle, and celebrated Bill
de Blasio’s decision to march in the parade for the first time as mayor.
“Perhaps our hearts will be dancing all the way,” said Brendan Fay, a leader of
the group, the Lavender and Green Alliance, which will participate in the parade on
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, had boycotted the event during his first two years in
office because of the organizers’ stance toward gay and lesbian groups. At a news
conference at the Irish Consulate, the mayor said he would start out in the parade
marching with members of New York City’s uniformed services and would later
accompany the Lavender and Green Alliance.
“For the last two decades there’s been a blemish on this city,” Mr. de Blasio,
wearing a green necktie, said of the long ban on gay and lesbian groups taking part.
“It was a long, long road, but it’s something we can now put behind us because
unity has been achieved.”
After years of resisting calls to allow gay groups, parade organizers permitted a
small group of gay employees of NBC, the network that televises the parade each
year, to march in 2015. But Mr. de Blasio still chose to skip the parade, saying that
the move did not go far enough and that he would not participate as long as there
were continued restrictions on other groups.
Then in September, parade organizers announced that Lavender and Green,
which had worked for years to open up the event, would take part. The decision
came after the parade’s longtime board chairman was pushed aside.
On Thursday, activists and organizers said a range of gay groups had decided
to march together in the parade under the Lavender and Green banner. It was not
clear whether additional groups would be allowed to take part next year.
“I think we should just get past this year,” Frank McGreal, a member of the
parade’s board of directors, said.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm choked up and was briefly unable to continue
speaking about the change.
“There were many times when we wanted to give up and we wondered if we
would ever see this day,” Mr. Dromm said, holding a small Irish flag and a small
rainbow flag representing gay pride. Acknowledging the small step forward taken
last year, he said, “This was always about including an Irish gay group in the
parade, and that’s what finally has happened.”
Mr. Dromm, a Queens Democrat, said that of the four members of the City
Council’s Irish-American caucus, three are gay. One of his fellow caucus members,
Jimmy Van Bramer, also a Democrat from Queens, recalled “a real profound and
deep feeling of exclusion and powerlessness” at being barred from the parade for
the last 25 years.
He said that he had been arrested protesting the exclusion of gay men from the
parade and recalled standing on the sidelines of the parade in the past chanting
“Let us in! Let us in!”
“For 25 years we protested,” Mr. Van Bramer said. “For all of these years I’ve
had to say, ‘No, I’m not going to the parade, I can’t go to the parade and it’s a very,
very painful thing.” He said that he would march this year and added, “Having
watched the parade for 25 years, it looks like a lot of fun.”
The controversy over the parade dates to 1990, when the Irish Lesbian and Gay
Organization asked for permission to march and was turned down.
The next year, Mayor David N. Dinkins promoted a compromise in which
members of a gay and lesbian group marched as part of another delegation that
was permitted to be in the parade. But they were jeered, and beer cans were thrown
at them and Mr. Dinkins.
Organizers subsequently barred gay and lesbian groups from taking part in the
parade, a ban that continued until last year. Mr. Dinkins skipped the parade during
his last two years as mayor, but Mayors Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R.
Bloomberg both regularly marched in the parade.
Mr. de Blasio resumed the boycott when he entered office in 2014.