NEW YORK — The mayors of New York and Boston are standing with a handful of homosexual activists in a boycott that organizers of those cities’ St. Patrick’s Day parades believe amounts to a public statement that means no Catholic values need apply.
In early February, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a high-profile announcement that he would not be marching in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. De Blasio said he took issue with the parade organizers’ refusal to allow units to join the parade with “pro-gay” signage.
Soon after, the city council also followed de Blasio’s lead and announced its own boycott of this New York Irish tradition, which has more than 200,000 participants marching down 5th Avenue in New York on March 17, with more than 1 million spectators each year.
De Blasio said that he would instead be “participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city.” De Blasio then marched March 2 in the “St. Pat's for All Parade” in Queens, an event organized by homosexual-rights activist Brendan Fey that garners a few thousand onlookers each year, and later posed for pictures with Irish drag queen “Panti Bliss.”
The New York City Mayor’s Office did not return the Register’s request for comment.
Following his New York counterpart’s lead, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh also stated that he would not be marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade hosted by the Allied War Veteran’s Council in South Boston, an area with a heavy Irish-Catholic history and population.
The parade (held this year on Sunday, March 16) since 1901 has celebrated not only the city’s Irish-Catholic heritage, but also Boston’s military veterans, and it is the second-largest parade in the country, with generally between 600,000 and 1 million spectators.
Organizers Hold Firm
Both the New York and South Boston parade organizers have held firm against demands to allow homosexual-rights activist groups to march. The South Boston organizers were close to an agreement allowing a purported group of homosexual military veterans to march, but reversed their decision when they discovered an apparent double-cross was in the works.
Mayor Walsh, joined by Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass, had been pushing the Allied War Veterans Council to make an exception to their policies against homosexual-rights groups marching, on the basis that they would be excluding homosexual military veterans.
Philip Wuschke Jr., the lead parade organizer and a former U.S. Marine who served during the First Gulf War, said that while he was sympathetic to giving any veteran the opportunity to march, he did not want a group turning a celebration of Irish heritage and faith into a public demonstration against their values. He pointed out that the parade bans other groups for that reason, such as the anti-war demonstrators called Veterans for Peace and the Westboro Baptist Church, which viciously protests Catholics, homosexuals and veterans.
MassEquality accused the parade’s organizers of “continu[ing] their long history of banning LGBT people from marching openly,” in a press release after talks finally broke down.
But Wuschke said, “The parade is about celebrating Irish heritage, and sexual orientation would be a distraction.” He also added that many homosexual persons have marched among the parade’s units celebrating Irish culture, and he has had homosexuals express support that they oppose MassEquality’s activists trying to change the parade.
“It’s about family and having fun. That’s how it’s been since I was a kid,” said Wuschke.
Wuschke told the Register that MassEquality approached his group with the proposal that a group of openly homosexual veterans be allowed to march in uniform. Wuschke said the name of the alleged group, “Veterans for Equality,” seemed tame enough. It was out of a desire to honor veterans that his group had decided to extend them the opportunity, but so long as they respected their values and code of conduct with these conditions: no banners, insignia or rainbow flag promoting homosexual rights.
“They had agreed they would come into the parade and march down the street, wearing their uniforms too, holding a banner that would say, ‘Veterans for Equality.’ That was it, and we said, ‘Okay, we can deal with something like that,’” he said.
But Wuschke said they rejected the group’s application after he discovered, two days later, at a March 2 meeting organized by Mayor Walsh and Congressman Lynch, that his goodwill had been taken advantage of. He had been deliberately misled. Flying the rainbow flag was a key demand, and there would not be 20 homosexual veterans marching with “Veterans for Equality,” as the application stated. He said the one homosexual veteran present at the meeting told him repeatedly there would be only “two or three” others, at most: not enough for the proposed color guard, unless the rest were non-veteran activists. Wuschke said it was also clear what Walsh and Lynch’s desired outcome was, as the conversations were “only going one way,” and Walsh kept interrupting and talking over him when he tried to present his concerns.
“It was all fraudulent,” he said.
MassEquality declined to discuss this situation further with the Register. However, 10 days after that meeting, MassEquality released an open letter signed by 12 homosexual veterans in Massachusetts alleging they would have marched in the parade. The Register verified that at least 11 out of 12 signers have public profiles associated with homosexual-rights activism, including two whose same-sex “marriage” was featured on The Huffington Post website.
William Donohue: Catholic Church Is the Target
Some observers are saying the two East Coast mayors are creating a controversy where there shouldn’t be one.
“These are Irish-Catholic parades,” said William Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, which advocates for Catholic civil rights in the public square. He noted that the St. Patrick’s Day parades are not just an ethnic parade, but a “religious ethnic parade,” pointing out that the New York parade begins with a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral “that sets the tone.”
Donohue disputed the charge made by homosexual-rights activists in Boston and New York: that the St. Patrick Day parades were discriminating unjustly against homosexuals. He blamed de Blasio’s public stance for helping to rekindle a debate that was largely settled almost 20 years ago.
“No gays were ever barred in Boston or New York from marching,” he said. “They could just not march under their own banner.”
He added, “Even pro-life Catholics cannot march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade under their own banner.”
Donohue said the Catholic Church is the real target of the homosexual-rights activists putting pressure on the country’s two largest St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Legal action against the parades is unlikely because, as Donohue noted, the case law was settled definitively in the parades’ favor back in 1995, in a unanimous 9-0 Supreme Court decision written by Justice David Souter. Instead, he said activists are conducting a public campaign against the parades’ advertizing sponsors.
“They want this one because they see the Catholic Church as the largest remaining bastion of traditional moral values,” said Donohue.
Donohue indicated that homosexual-rights activists are sending a message that when it comes to tolerance and diversity, no Irish Catholics need apply.
“Real tolerance would be that you love these people, and let them have their own parade.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.