St. Patrick’s Day Parades Included Some LGBT Groups, but Not All

LGBT groups openly marched in parades in New York and Boston this year, but critics question whether it’s progress or just a gesture.

Gay rights groups marched in South Boston’s famed St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 15. (Photo: 'Boston Globe'/Getty Images)

Mar 17, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Rainbow flags waved brightly alongside four-leaf clovers and other Irish emblems in both New York City and Boston to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year. Although Massachussetts and New York were early adopters of gay marriage, 2015 marks the first year LGBT community members could openly participate in both St. Patrick’s Day parades.

To be more exact, a few select LGBT groups were invited to join city parades in a move that’s called historic by some but is being criticized as not nearly enough by others.

OutVets marched alongside fellow service members in Boston’s Sunday celebration, and OUT@NBCUniversal, an LGBT alliance group of NBC employees, joined the New York walk up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Tuesday.

“ ‘If we let OutVets in [the St. Patrick’s Day Parade], it’s going to turn into a gay pride parade,’ ” Amy Bonneau, a member of the LGBT veterans group, told MSNBC. That’s the argument she’s often heard for banning LGBT vets’ participation alongside fellow service members.

Boston’s parade features a variety of veteran and immigrant groups, but a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed the event’s organizers to prohibit LGBT groups, because the parade is privately funded. The Allied War Veterans Council, which runs Boston’s event, ruled 5–4 that the LGBT group had the right to participate last week and that their presence was not some sort of veiled move to push a political agenda.

Video footage of Sunday’s parade shows an outpouring of support—with a few instances of intolerance—for this long-awaited arrival of LGBT members.

New York’s decision to include an LGBT group faced protest because organizers chose the LGBT employee alliance of one of the event’s corporate sponsors, NBCUniversal.

Members of advocacy group Irish Queers stood at the parade’s sidelines to protest OUT@NBCUniversal’s role in the event. In the days leading up to the parade, protesters posted images on the group’s Facebook page with signs reading “because corporate lackeys are no substitute for community members” and “because we demand real inclusion in our community’s celebration.”

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t buying the move as progress.

“A lot of people feel, I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade,” the mayor said at an event on Sunday, the St. Pat’s for All parade. For the second year in a row, he opted to march in the city’s alternative event, which welcomes a wide array of LGBT groups.