Why the Furor Over Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade?

New York City's 253rd annual St. Patrick's Day Parade takes place on Monday. It is older than the United States and the largest in the world. But Mayor Bill de Blasio — and many City Council members — won't be marching in it this year. WNYC explains why — and why this year.

Why won't the Mayor march?

The Mayor is boycotting the parade in solidarity with the gay community. LGBT groups have been banned from marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade since 1992. "I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city," Mayor de Blasio told reporters.

Didn't Mayor Bloomberg march every year?

Yes. The former Mayor never missed a parade, but that doesn't mean he was ok with excluding the LGBT community. "I think it’s a misguided policy," Bloomberg told Katie Couric in a recent interview. "I tried to get them to change it and I was unsuccessful at doing that."

Bloomberg went on to tell Couric he didn't think boycotting was the right way to go about the problem. "If anything I think it hardens the views," he said. "It makes it harder for anybody to change if you force them into a corner."

Why aren't LGBT people included in the parade?

Back in 1991, a group of red-headed gay and lesbian Irish New Yorkers marched in the parade with Mayor Dinkins. The homophobia was so strong that Irish Catholic parade-goers booed and hissed and threw bottles at the queer marchers. The next year, the parade organizers put their foot down and banned the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization on the grounds that the parade's Catholic beliefs did not support homosexuality.

Is that legal?

Yes. In 1995 the U.S. Federal Court ruled in favor of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Catholic group that organized the parade. It found that a parade is a form of expression and free speech. It ruled that forcing the Catholic organization to admit homosexual marchers would go against its freedom of religion.

There are so many St. Patrick's Day parades. Do any of them embrace the LGBT community?

Well, de Blasio marched in the St. Pat's for All Parade in Queens on March 2 along with the Gay Officers Action League, the group Irish Queers and other elected officials who wanted to show their support for both the Irish and gay communities.

And in Boston, where a similar controversy boils, Mayor Marty Walsh tried to broker a deal between parade organizers and gay rights' groups but failed.

Chicago's parade, however, has been allowing the gay community to march since the mid-1990's.

This post originally appeared on WNYC, Sunday March 16, 2014

Sarah BarrettComment