Second Homosexual Group Green-Lighted to March in New York St. Patrick’s Parade

The parade committee chairman called the invitation ‘a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions.’

(photo: Flickr/Adam Pieniazek)

NEW YORK — The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee’s recent decision to allow a second homosexual group to march under its own banner proves that the annual parade down Fifth Avenue is no longer Catholic, says Elizabeth Rex.

“It’s time for Catholics to boycott this parade,” said Rex, the president and co-founder of The Children First Foundation, a New York-based charitable organization that promotes adoption as a pro-life option for women in crisis pregnancies.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, told the Register that what has happened to the parade is “tragic and a disgrace.”

“I’m hardly surprised. I predicted this,” Donohue said. “The committee’s goal was to turn this more into a secular event, to downplay the tribute to St. Patrick.”

Said Donohue, “I knew there would be more gay groups. It was never going to be just one.”

On Sept. 29, the parade’s board of directors voted to invite Lavender & Green Alliance, an organization that represents same-sex-attracted people of Irish descent, to march in the 2016 parade.

Last year, the committee opened the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to OUT&NBCUniversal, a pro-homosexual collection of NBC employees that became the first openly homosexual group to march in the parade’s 353-year history. The committee has invited the group to march again in 2016.

In a prepared statement announcing the invitation to the Lavender & Green Alliance, John Lahey, the parade committee board chairman, said the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the birth of Irish independence, “is a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions and the Irish role in the 21st century.”

Said Lahey, who is also president of Quinnipiac University, “We are working with the government of Ireland in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit.”

Patrick Smith, a spokesman for the parade committee, told the Register: “By its action, the board of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade strongly established that the parade does not discriminate.”

The committee’s decision pleased Brendan Fay, the founder and chairman of the Lavender & Green Alliance, who for years protested the exclusion of homosexual groups from the parade. Fay called the decision “a great day for hospitality and inclusion.”

The group Irish Queers also released a statement declaring victory and praising the parade committee for dropping its “bigoted ban.”

But Donohue said he found it striking that the parade committee selected the Lavender & Green Alliance, adding that Fay, a filmmaker who identifies as Catholic but is civilly married to his same-sex partner, has openly challenged the Church’s teachings on sexual morality for several years. Fay has protested the parade and organized his own St. Pat’s for All parade in the borough of Queens.

“Why you would invite him in, as opposed to a gay group that wasn’t so controversial, I think, is a real marker,” said Donohue, who accuses committee members of currying favor with secular elites by separating the parade from its Catholic roots.

St. Patrick is the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York, and tradition has been that the archbishop of New York celebrates Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before the parade and then observes the marchers pass by from the cathedral steps.

“The St. Patrick’s parade is either about St. Patrick or it’s a Mardi Gras,” Donohue said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, served as the grand marshal of the 2015 parade. He appeared to downplay the controversy over the NBC group, saying that the parade committee had his confidence and support.

Contacted by the Register, Joseph Zwilling, the director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said the archdiocese will not be commenting on the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“As the cardinal has said many times in the past, he is not involved in any way in the decisions made by the parade organizers and will not comment on them,” Zwilling said.

In his earlier statement, Cardinal Dolan said that neither he nor his predecessors had ever determined who marched in the parade. However, the late Cardinal John O’Connor, in 1993, voiced his opposition to homosexual groups’ efforts to march in the parade under their own banner.

“What others may call bigotry, Irish Catholics call principle,” Cardinal O’Connor said, according to published reports.

Rex said she was disappointed that Cardinal Dolan didn’t speak out when the parade committee apparently reneged on its promise to allow a right-to-life group to march under its own banner in 2015.

Rex applied to march in the 2015 parade after the committee indicated that a pro-life group would be allowed to march. However, the committee rejected The Children First Foundation’s application and no pro-life group marched, prompting the Catholic League to back out after years of marching in the parade.

“We were double-crossed,” Rex told the Register.

“It is good to show tolerance, but I certainly wanted to be shown respect and tolerance as well by the committee,” said Rex, who told the Register that after the experience she went through last year, she does not plan to apply for her organization to march in the 2016 parade.

Instead, Rex said faithful Catholics in New York City should consider organizing their own St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“It’s time to choose,” Rex said, “God or mammon.”

Donohue said the situation should never have reached that point. Beginning in the 1990s, homosexual-rights groups lobbied and filed lawsuits, demanding that homosexual groups march in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which annually draws hundreds of thousands of spectators.

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston that private organizations that organize public demonstrations are not required to include groups that convey messages that the organizers do not want at their events.

“I know of no other group that would win in the United States Supreme Court and then give it away, except these people whose goal is to suck up to the secular elites,” said Donohue, adding that he has no interest in the Catholic League marching again in the parade.

“Why would I go back when these people have no interest in honoring St. Patrick?” said Donohue, who added: “I saw the handwriting on the wall, and I bolted. I’m glad I made the decision when I did.”

Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.