When two LGBT groups marched in Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, people hoped that bigotry and discrimination were dissipating. LGBT groups have been permitted in the parade, first organized in 1901, only during 1992 and 1993 because of a state court mandate. Outrage caused the parade to be cancelled in 1994 to keep LGBT groups from marching until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the LGBT groups could be excluded for a parade on Boston’s public streets.
The Allied War Veterans Council controls the St. Patrick’s Day Parade; that group is the sole authority for participants—and non-participants—in the celebration. The ruling of Hurley vs Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995) upheld the right of the Allied War Veterans Council to keep selected groups from marching.
After national headlines proclaimed that “Boston Parade Welcomes Two Gay Groups,” Brian R. Mahoney, commander of the Allied War Veterans, announced that they had been deceived and not really permitted LGBT groups to march. He published an op-ed in South Boston Today, a newspaper for which he is editor-in-chief, stating that the council “innocently believed” that the group Boston Pride was “an off-shoot of Boston Strong,” a slogan used after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Mahoney wrote:
“Any report that the Council voted on or even saw the application is either a misquote or complete fabrication.”
He also wrote:
“It was shocking and unauthorized … when they appeared at G (Street) and Broadway carrying 10-12 multicolored umbrellas that I would describe as rainbow even though I have been told they ‘technically’ were not rainbows…. I spoke again with this unit on the Kelly Bridge, inspected their banner, flags and two rainbow banners with a pot of gold and leprechauns and found no violation.”
Yet he claims that he had no idea that it was an LGBT group.
Chester Darling, the Andover attorney who won the landmark 9-0 Supreme Court decision that gave the council the right to exclude marchers who display gay rights banners, said he thought it was “unfortunate that this had to come up” because “now we’ve got another controversy going for next year.”
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch called Mahoney’s opinion piece “unfortunate.” The South Bostonian said of Boston Pride and the OutVets who marched for the first time this year:
“I participated in the parade and we were happy to have them. I think they were warmly received, I think that they were gracious in their own way, and I think it was a completely positive event and I don’t want anything now to take away from that.”
After someone pointed out that other marchers not associated with the two groups also carried umbrellas, Mahoney said:
“Well, how’s this — umbrellas of any sort are not allowed.
Although the LGBT veterans’ group managed to march, the group Veterans for Peace was barred from participation in the Boston parade. About Veterans for Peace, Mahoney said, “They’re a bunch of American weasels. A bunch of American phonies.”
Although Mahoney claimed that he knew nothing about an LGBT group marching in the Boston parade, Huffington Post reported in February that a Roman Catholic grammar school pulled out of the parade in protest of the decision to allow an LGBT veterans’ group to march. The article reported that Boston parade organizers said they would admit the OutVets group because its members were veterans.
Over a month before the event, Huffington Post announced the participation of OutVets in the Boston parade:
“The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which has long resisted the inclusion of gay groups and won a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1995 upholding their right to ban them from the annual parade that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, voted 5-4 on Monday night to allow the group OutVets to march in the parade scheduled for March 15….
“’Mayor Walsh has been advocating for an inclusive parade for quite some time,’ spokeswoman Kate Norton said in a statement Tuesday. ‘We’re thrilled to hear that the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council has decided to make the 2015 parade an inclusive event.’
“’OutVets is being allowed to participate because of their members’ military service, and sexual orientation was irrelevant in the vote,’ said Brian Mahoney, commander of the veterans council. ‘The parade is meant to honor veterans and Irish-American heritage, and OutVets met the criteria,’ he said.
“Lead organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said the vote was illegal because there was no quorum. ‘I’m sending a letter to the commander saying he held an illegal meeting and an illegal vote,’ Wuschke said. “He did not follow the bylaws of the council.’
“Mahoney disputed that. ‘I feel safe in saying that last night’s vote was legal,’ he said.”
Mahoney has also been quoted as saying “who am I to judge?” when asked about the issue of sexual orientation.
Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, refused to attend last year because the Allied War Veterans refused to let the LGBT group MassEquality march. Other top Massachusetts politicians have for decades refused to participate in the parade because the exclusion of gay groups.
In New York, Mayor Bill Blasio continued to boycott the St. Patrick’s Day parade because of its discrimination. Although one LGBT group, Out@NBCUniversal, was allowed to march, others were not. NBC is one of the biggest sponsors of the parade and “was prepared to drop its coverage unless a compromise that resulted in the inclusion of a gay group was brokered” with parade organizers, according to the Irish Voice. The LGBT group had no rainbows, just green sashes and a green banner. This year is the first time since the parade’s inception in 1762 that an LGBT group openly marched
Irish Queers, banned from the parade, protested the event at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. Allen Roskoff, a prominent gay rights activist president of the city’s Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, criticized both parade organizers and OUT@NBCUniversal saying that members “take care of their own within the corporation” and their participation is “totally disrespectful” of other LGBT persons.
2015: The year that two LGBT groups marched in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade before being told it was a mistake, and one LGBT group marched in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade because their employee threatened to pull its coverage for the event. Not even a baby step—just a crawl.