In an echo of the parade controversy in New York, Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston, Massachusetts has announced he plans to boycott the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade unless LGBT groups are allowed to participate openly.
The Seattle Pi reported that Walsh, the child of Irish immigrants himself, said on February 26 that allowing openly LGBT people and organizations to take part is “long overdue.”
Currently, Walsh is trying to make a deal with the parade’s organizers that would allow a gay military veterans group to march in the parade, but the organizers are still refusing. One of them, John Hurley, took a nearly identical case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1995 and won; nearly twenty years later, he still says that decision is final and that Walsh “is not in a position” to override the ruling.
The previous mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, had also refused to participate after the 1995 Supreme Court decision.
The lead organizer of the parade, Philip Wuschke Jr., said that members of the LGBT community are welcome to participate in the parade—as part of other groups. He stated, “The theme of the parade is St. Patrick’s Day. It is not a sexually oriented parade. All we want to do is have a happy parade. The parade is a day of celebration, not demonstration.”
Saint Patrick’s Day, originally a commemoration of Saint Patrick’s Christian work in Ireland, has been an official Christian feast day since the early 1600s. In the US, it is mostly known as a celebration of Irish culture, Irish heritage, and alcoholic beverages. As a part of the UK, southern Ireland’s marriage equality law will come into effect in March 2014, although the independent nation of Northern Ireland has yet to pass its own law.
The Boston parade draws an estimated one million spectators to South Boston annually.