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

saint patrick's day paradeSt. 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.’ “


  1. Annette says

    The reason why minority churches continue to hurt LGBT citizens is because fear and hatred are enormously profitable for the churches. Preaching about how god hates gays makes church members pony up the donations. Scaring people by saying the gays will teach homosexuality in the schools makes people vote for anti-gay politicians. And telling people that you’ll “fight for marriage” by keeping gays and lesbians out of it makes millions of people donate money to political groups that hurt same-sex couples.

    The anti-gay money-maker is nothing new. Gays were tortured and murdered by the Catholic church for millennia, and the church became very, very rich by stealing the property of those they murdered, many of whom were gay or lesbian. Today, anti-gay political initiatives are a huge fundraiser and Get Out The Vote strategy for the right wing. Homophobia is a classic tool the GOPs uses to rile up their base.

    Maryland’s black churches just squelched and attempt to give civil unions to same-sex couples. The Baptist Press said that the opposition was from predominantly black churches, as well as from the Maryland Catholic Conference: “Democrats hold a 98-43 advantage over Republicans in the House, but a third (34) of the Democrats belong to the legislative black caucus.”

    It’s not just the black churches that strike out against equal rights. The Hispanic Pastoral Association of Rhode Island brought 5,500 signatures on a petition asking legislators to vote no on gay marriage there.

    Chris Plante said, “What really turned the tide for us in the Senate hearings was the Hispanic church.”

    Most people across the nation accept their LGBT neighbors, friends and relatives. The problem is, not enough straight people are motivated enough to demand change. You often hear progressives and liberals say they have lots of gay friends and associates and they think same sex couples should be allowed to marry. But how many of those enlightened people actually work for equal rights for their LGBT friends and relatives? Homophobes against gay marriage are actively blocking equality, while those who accept and respect same-sex relationships stand by and do nothing to further the cause of equality, not even to try to stop the hateful attacks on LGBT people. Because the left wing hasn’t moved forward to secure equal rights for gays, we’ve let the right wing use it as a fundraiser and Get Out The Vote strategy for electing anti-progressive politicians. If we simply demand that the federal government abide by the constitutional guarantees of privacy, liberty and equal protection, we could solve this issue once and for all. By doing nothing, liberals are leaving the issue of gay rights to those who prevent equality. We ignore it at our own peril.

    C’mon heterosexuals, stand up for equality! Join the Straight But Not Narrow club. It took white people to end slavery in this country, and it’s going to take straight people to ensure equal rights for lesbian and gay families.

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