In 1995, John Hurley, the chief organizer of the South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, was so against Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Groups participating in Southie’s annual parade that he brought the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since the Allied War Veterans Council organized this private annual event, the Supreme Court ruled that Hurley, also known as “Wacko,” and the parade’s organizers had a First Amendment right to exclude the LGBT community from openly expressing their sexuality while marching in the parade.
And now, in 2014, although the public opinion about homosexuality has dramatically changed in Boston, LGBT Groups of Boston were still unable to express their sexuality while marching Sunday’s parade. Although no one is stopping LGBT individuals from participating in the parade, if they held up a rainbow flag or banner expressing the fact that they identify as LGBT, Mr. Wacko would have gone well, wacko.
Preceding the Parade, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in South Boston was hosted by a non-male, non-white, non-South Boston resident for the first time ever. State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American woman married to an Irish-American, hosted the signature cultural event of Southie on Sunday, and was met with a lot of support and recognition.
Forry was then joined on stage with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, another Boston public figure that represents that changing demographic of Boston.
“Have a good look, everybody,” Patrick said as he put his arm around Forry. “This is what a ‘Forry’ and a ‘Patrick’ looks like these days.”
However, although the breakfast gave the impression that the city has made a dramatic progression in terms of equality, integration and tolerance, Sunday’s parade seemed to discourage all of that progress.
Former City Council president Lawrence DiCara described this Sunday as a day that was, “out of sync.”
“The breakfast gives the impression of a dramatically changing city, but the parade gives the impression of a city that hasn’t changed in 50 years,” DiCara told the New York Times.
Sunday’s parade was met with a great amount of backlash and provoked multiple boycotts — even from Boston Mayor Martin Walsh himself.
Walsh, an Irish-American himself, attempted to reach a compromise with The Allied War Veterans Council prior to Sunday, but was unsuccessful. Since he did not agree with perpetuating this equality gap, he refused to participate in Sunday’s parade. Such was an honorable move by Walsh that was also reflected by several other prominent Boston figures and companies.
Club Café and Cornerstone Pub and Restaurant are two Southie bars that refused to serve Sam Adams beer because its parent company, Boston Beer, was a parade sponsor. As a result, Boston Beer then backed out of sponsoring the parade.
People could argue that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is about celebrating Christianity, and not a platform for activism — particularly a type of activism that would impede on many of its follower’s religious beliefs. But that argument itself exemplifies one of the biggest problems with this situation. The Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade symbolizes the double standard that LGBT people still face in today’s society.
Police, firefighters and several other Irish groups were allowed to march in the parade sporting their uniforms, banners and pride. LGBT people, on the other hand, had to keep that pride quiet. Not allowing LGBT people to march behind a banner that symbolizes who they are forces them to deny their identity in public.
Permitting the LGBT community to openly express their sexuality during the parade does not mean that it would then transform into a “gay pride parade,” subsequently losing focus of the holiday itself. And, at the same time, this holiday often isn’t about the religious aspect to many people, but rather about coming together as a city to celebrate their Boston and Irish pride in a green, drunken stupor.
If this tradition was just meant to be about religion, then the parade would be run as a religious ceremony — not a celebration where Darth Vaders and Wizard of Oz characters are running around painted green.
Equality is never as simple as black or white or green. But we are in a state that is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary of same-sex marriage, and it is absurd that fellow Boston residents are being excluded from a tradition that the city holds most dear.
Now that prominent Boston figures have taken concrete action over this issue, hopefully more colors will be added to the sea of green at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2015.