New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Will Finally Be Open to LGBTQ Groups

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Sept. 11 2014 3:40 PM

New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Steps Toward LGBTQ Inculsiveness

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Shamrock shade equality is coming ...

Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Update, Sept. 9, 2014: Since New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers announced the inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal last week, Irish LGBTQ groups have begun to call out what they view as a disingenuous attempt on behalf of the committee to placate critics of the parade without truly lifiting the queer organization ban. Even though general groups may apply through December of this year to march, organizations like Irish Queers have been told that they will be put on a waiting list and that they should reapply for 2016. These statements were particularly offensive to Irish Queers, who described them as “an unwelcome bit of Irish nostalgia”:

[The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization] was also told by parade organizers in the early 1990s to "apply to march." The organizers pretended ILGO was on a waiting list because the parade was too long, and made excuses for refusing our application that were uncovered later in court.
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A coalition of LGBTQ Irish groups aired their concerns at a press conference on Tuesday, at which time they formally applied to the parade organizers for inclusion in the 2015 march.

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Original post, published Sept. 3, 2014
While LGBTQ pride marches continue to generate a modicum of controversy each summer, the most rancorous season involving queer people and parades is early spring, when St. Patrick’s Day celebrations take over avenues in the Northeast and beyond. As of 2014, LGBTQ groups were officially banned from participating in Boston and New York’s parades; queer people were technically allowed to march, but they were not permitted to display anything announcing their identity.

That will change in New York next March, when OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBTQ affinity group of the network that broadcasts the parade, will officially join the march under its own banner. A spokesman for the parade’s organizing committee said that other groups would be allowed to apply in future years.

This move is good news for more than just queer folks of Irish heritage and their supporters: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who drew fire earlier this year when he boycotted the Fifth Avenue parade over its exclusion of LGBTQ groups, will presumably be able to rejoin the throng in 2015. While Boston’s parade—the controversy around which Outward covered back in March—has yet to amend its policy, but pressure from participants, activists, and, perhaps most important, sponsors, will likely lead to a similar adjustment soon.

At least, that should be the case if the concern is truly about resisting the politicization of the parade, as has been the claim. As the New York Times notes:

[New York] parade organizers long maintained that the ban was meant to keep politics out of the parade, but conceded on Wednesday that it was having the opposite effect.
“Organizers have diligently worked to keep politics—of any kind—out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event,” the organizers said in their statement. “Paradoxically, that ended up politicizing the parade.”

There are, of course, plenty of Irish Americans who are also LGBTQ; including them openly need not “divide” the cultural nature of the parade. Queer people only become a “political problem” when the straight world defines us as such—good for the parade organizers for finally learning that lesson. 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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