It looks like major corporations have achieved what LGBT activists could not do on their own, even after two decades of trying: force the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to allow gay groups to march under their own banner.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade draws hundreds of thousands of participants for what can be a boozy day along New York’s tony Fifth Avenue. The event starts with a Catholic Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and is meant to celebrate the saint who brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle and supposedly drove out the snakes.
For almost 25 years, LGBT activists have pressured the parade to allow them to march under their own banner. Organizers have said LGBT individuals almost certainly march in the parade, just not as a recognizable group.
The longtime principal organizer of the event was the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an lay organization founded by miners in 1836 to combat American nativism which often directed its ire at Irish Catholics.
LGBT groups first attempted to gain access to the parade in 1991 and were denied, so they went after the Hibernians in court. The Hibernians claimed the parade was a private event and therefore not bound by New York State laws banning discrimination, and the court eventually agreed. Subsequent courts agreed, too, including the Supreme Court in 1995.
That same year, then-Mayor David Dinkins threatened a boycott unless gays were allowed to march. A compromise was reached when a group of gays were allowed to march within the delegation of the midtown Manhattan chapter of the Hibernians. It is reported the contingent was booed and doused with beer. The Hibernians later charged the gay marchers with causing a disturbance and banned them in 1992 altogether.
In 1993, the New York City Human Rights Commission ordered the parade to accept LGBT participants, and the city tried to give the parade permit to a liberal group. A federal judge overturned these decisions, and the parade went ahead with the Hibernians running the event as they normally did.
Fed up with the ongoing battles and the threats of new lawsuits, the Hibernians quietly handed over control of the parade to an entity called the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee–headed by a feisty former transit worker named John Dunleavy, who controversially said Israelis should not be forced to march with neo-Nazis and and blacks should not be forced to march with the Klan.
Dunleavy and his committee held the line through many more years of controversy. In 2010, for instance, Irish President Mary McAleese refused the honor of heading the parade, citing their ban on LGBT groups.
However, in the past year, the parade has faced its most severe pressure. Being boycotted by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio or various city-councilmen is one thing, losing corporate sponsorships can really hurt. Just ask Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, who–under the threat of her state losing the Super Bowl and perhaps a billion dollars in revenue–refused to sign a bill allowing religious businesses to decline their services for same-sex marriage ceremonies.
This past spring, famed Irish brewer Guinness withdrew its sponsorship from the parade. Heineken followed suit. Ford Motor Company has threatened to withdraw. Similar threats were realized at the same parade in Boston. Thus, it was announced Wednesday that one gay group will march in the parade.
One open question is what role the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, played in this. Did he have to approve the change? There seems little question he had to be informed. After all, on the same day the LGBT news broke, it was announced that he will serve as Grand Marshal next March 17.
Moreover, since the event is the most visible Catholic event in the Archdiocese, it makes sense he would be informed. Irishcentral.com reports: “looming behind all [the committee’s] big decisions is the figure of Cardinal Dolan who, just by his position, has a huge role to play. There seems little doubt he would have to be consulted an any accommodation with gay groups. It seems a long shot he would agree.”
In an exclusive interview, a source closely connected to the Archdiocese told Breitbart News, “This is an affront to the memory of John Cardinal O’Connor, who fought and won in the Courts to permit Catholic to have a religious procession in accordance with the tenets of their church. One can only hope that Cardinal Dolan directs Catholic institutions to boycott the parade and that he withdraws from being Grand Marshal.”