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Second Gay Group Allowed to March in New York St. Pat's Parade

Jeffrey Bruno

Images from Saint Patricks Day Parade New York City 2015

John Burger - published on 10/07/15

New committee chairman, Quinnipiac's John Lahey, still says purpose is to "celebrate the patron saint of Ireland"

The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade has invited a second gay group to march in the storied event.

The parade’s board of directors voted Sept. 28 to invite Lavender and Green Alliance, a gay Irish heritage group, to march in the 2016 parade, The Wall Street Journal reported. It will join Out@NBCUniversal, a gay-straight alliance group at NBC, which was included in the 2015 parade after the threat of boycotts from major sponsors, including Guinness.

Brendan Fay, founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance, said in a statement that his group looks forward to marching in 2016 behind a banner reading, “Lavender and Green Alliance – Muintir Aerach na hEireann, celebrating Irish Lesbian, Gay, bisexual and Transgender culture and identity since 1994.”

Fay hailed the Board of Directors of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and thanked its chairman, John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University.

“We’re hopeful those who thought we didn’t go far enough in 2015 will feel more satisfied,” Lahey told the Journal. “We don’t want the false impression that we discriminate.”

But it was a long-standing policy of the 250-year-old parade that virtually anyone could march in the parade, as long as no one carried banners proclaiming doctrines contrary to that of the Catholic faith, since the event honored a saint of the Church. The archbishop of New York typically celebrates a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral prior to the parade’s kickoff and reviews it from the steps of the Fifth Avenue cathedral.

Cardinal John O’Connor, who was archbishop from 1984-2000, squared off against then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins over including gay groups in the early 1990s. Organizers banned the Irish Lesbian Gay Organization (ILGO) from marching under its banner, and Dinkins stopped participating in the parade. In a 1993 homily, Cardinal O’Connor said, “Neither respectability nor political correctness is worth one comma in the Apostles’ Creed.” The Church, he said, offers homosexuals its love and prayers, but he “could never even be perceived as compromising Catholic teaching.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio followed Dinkins’ example in 2014, citing the organizers’ position on gay groups. He didn’t think that inclusion of the NBC group was enough to signal a change and thus did not march this year either.  City Journal, the publication of the Manhattan Institute, said that a spokeswoman for the mayor was considering the changes to the 2016 parade and hadn’t yet decided whether to march.

But Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, had no hesitation speaking about it.

“It’s contemptible. It’s become a circus,” he said. “They should no longer be able to call it the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I will never march with them again.”

Former state Sen. Tom Duane said Tuesday that the inclusion of Lavender and Green was “a good sign of even more good things to come.” But openly gay Councilman Ritchie Torres said progress has been too slow. “Drawing the line at two LGBT groups feels arbitrary and exclusionary,” the Bronx Democrat said.

Lahey said there were no plans to let other gay groups participate. He said organizers were under pressure from city officials to limit the number of groups that march.

“The purpose of the parade is to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. That’s our purpose,” he said. “The purpose is not to have the most inclusive parade that ever existed.”

A contact at Cardinal Dolan’s office was unable to confirm whether he knew of these developments, but added that the cardinal “has said all along that he does not have approval, nor does he seek approval, of who the parade committee invites to march.”

Cardinal Dolan resisted calls to step down from the role of grand marshal this year after the parade committee invited Out@NBC to march.

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