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Like Black Church, St. Patrick's Day Parades Are Anti-Gay

Rev. Irene Monroe: St. Patrick's Day has rolled around again, and like previous March 17th celebrations nationwide, its LGBTQ communities are not invited. As a contentious and protracted argument for now over two decades, parade officials have a difficult time grasping the notion that being Irish and gay is also part of their heritage.
saint patrick's day parade

St. Patrick's Day Anti LGBTQ Parade

Irish and African-American lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities have a lot in common when it comes to being excluded from the iconic institutions in their communities.

For LGBTQ African Americans, it's the Black Church, and for LGBTQ Irish Americans, it's the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

St. Patrick's Day has rolled around again, and like previous March 17th celebrations nationwide, LGBTQ communities are not invited to participate. As a contentious and protracted argument for over two decades, parade officials have a difficult time grasping the notion that gays share their heritage.

Unlike the Black Church, however, that has and continues to throw the Bible at its LGBTQ community to justify their exclusionary practices, the St. Patrick's Day parade committee uses the First Amendment, debating that they are constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of religion, speech and association, and the tenet separating church and state.

Whereas most cities and states are not gay-friendly, Boston is known to be. But to the surprise of its LGBTQ denizens, Boston's St. Patrick's Day parades have no gay revelers marching.

In 1994 Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade was canceled over this issue. The state's highest court ruled that the parade organizers could not ban members of the LGBTQ community from marching. But in a counter lawsuit, parade officials won, accusing LGBTQ Irish-Americans of violating their rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Heterosexual Irish-Americans discriminating against LGBTQ communities is so reminiscent, to me, of how straight African Americans discriminate against their queer communities, both forgetting their similar struggles for acceptance.

In the not so distant past, Irish Americans were scoffed at for showing their ethnic pride, and they were discriminated against for being both Catholic and ethnically Irish. As they immigrated to these shores tensions rose. By the mid-19th century anti-Irish bigotry was blatantly showcased in our cities as businesses put up placards saying: “No Irish Need Apply." In 1900's in New York City, for example, newsboys, found on every corner or on a regular newspaper route, were often children of immigrants, who fought fiercely with each other for these jobs. Italian and Jewish immigrant kids would mock Irish boys screaming, "No Irish need apply." And the song captured the daily hardships these new Americans confronted as they looked for work:

"I'm a decent boy just landed
From the town of Ballyfad;
I want a situation, yes,
And want it very bad.
I have seen employment advertised,
"It's just the thing," says I,
"But the dirty spalpeen ended with
'No Irish Need Apply.' "

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saint patrick's day parade

And like my ancestors of the African diaspora, the Irish were once slaves a.k.a. “Indentured Servants”, and bound for the Americas by the British. King James II and Charles I enslaved them by selling 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves, making Ireland, as was done with Africa, a huge source of human livestock. The forced interbreeding of Irish females with African males was widespread on British plantations in the Caribbean and U.S. until it was outlawed in 1681, giving birth to anti-miscegenation laws.

As a matter of fact, the Irish didn't become "white" in America until they fully participated in the wave of anti-black violence that swept the country in the 1830s and 1840s, where unskilled Irish men competed with free African Americans for jobs.

So I ask, what would St. Patrick do in this situation?

He would unquestionably welcome Irish LGBTQ, especially in a parade named after him.

St. Patrick was a man who used his experience of struggle to effect change.

As a 5th century English missionary to Ireland, St. Patrick was born in 387 and died on March 17, 461 AD. He was taken prisoner by a group of raiders attacking his family's estate that transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.

After six years as a prisoner, St. Patrick escaped, but returned to Ireland as a missionary to convert them to Christianity. As a priest, he incorporated traditional Irish rituals rather than eradicating their native beliefs. St. Patrick used bonfires to celebrate Easter since they honored their gods with fire, and he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what we now know as the Celtic cross.


While many parade officials may think they are honoring the St. Patrick's Day tradition by excluding its LGBTQ communities, like the Black Church, they will only be dishonoring themselves.

And, truth be told, no one knows how to throw a party or put on a parade like the LGBTQ community.

Rev. Irene Monroe