U.S. St. Patrick’s Day Parades Attract Controversy

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Above: St. Patrick’s day revelers in NY. Image by Elzbieta Sekowska / Shutterstock.com

Two St. Patrick’s Day parades became highly controversial and the center of a media whirlwind this past Sunday and Monday over a ban on LGBT floats in either parade. The Boston and New York City parades, two of the biggest St. Patty’s celebrations in all the states, lost sponsorship and mayor participation; naturally, the media, and the commenting universe, have gone all kinds of crazy.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston mayor Martin Walsh both decided to sit out their respective city’s parades after talks broke down between them and the organizers about letting LGBT folks brandish flags and such in the parades. According to various news media sites, the reasoning for this, at least in the case of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, was that sexual orientation, or sexuality in general, is not to be on display during the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Organizers of the parades commented that the festivities were about being Irish (from birth or for a beer swigging day), but the mayors both sat out in support of inclusion and equal rights for all.

As an added bit of controversy, Boston Beer Co., owner of Sam Adams, pulled support from the Boston parade, while Guinness and Heineken dropped out as sponsors for the New York festivities.

St. Patrick's Day Parade
Image by Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

Seemingly, though, the celebrations in question were filled with merriment, drunkenness, and probably a punch in the face (or a million). Irish politician Enda Kenny was in attendance at Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, along with Walsh, who still found ways to celebrate outside the parade. Pictures across the Internet have shown that, although this year was a wee bit more controversial than other years (probably not entirely true, actually), there was still many a party animal all across the states (did you know Chicago dyes an entire river green?). A holiday that’s been warped to become an inebriated mess remained, as usual, an inebriated mess.

What’s more interesting, as usual, than the events leading up to and parallel to the parades, was the discourse surrounding the bans and their effects. Many comments on sites such as Huffington Post and CNN suggested that even LGBT supporters thought the whole issue was overblown, in fact agreeing (albeit begrudgingly) with the idea that the parades are not about gay rights but about the celebration of Irish heritage and culture. Other folks adding to the discourse agreed wholeheartedly with de Blasio and Walsh, calling the bans outright attacks against equality and human rights. And still others thought that the St. Patrick’s Day holiday itself has become too much of a commercial nightmare (America!).

St. Patrick's Day Parade

The Boston Globe, meanwhile, published a really fascinating look beyond the commercial and political actions taken, focusing more on a diversity float that was allowed in the parade. The float, made in South Boston (same neighborhood as that of the organizers), sported rainbow cannons, accompanied by homosexual and heterosexual South Bostonians alike, who gave out green and rainbow bead necklaces. According to the Globe, the float was meant to be in celebration of Boston’s diversity, and extended a welcome to all manner of people. The makers of this fine float apparently politely worked on getting permission for many years, wanting to create a display of equality and diversity, but without one outright statement slapped on the side of the float.

This one’s a difficult bit of controversy, I must say. On the one hand, any celebration should be absolutely inclusive, but organizers do have the right to set the tone of an event and what kind of message should be sent. The folks who made the diversity float in South Boston appealed to the Allied War Veterans as neighbors and a part of the community, sexual orientation or ethnicity aside. This suggests that the ban is really on taking focus away from the celebration of Irishness, but of course a ban is a ban, and that also violates basic human rights principles. One LGBT advocate commented that not every parade has to include pride iconography, and that certain sectors of the LGBT world sometimes paint an oversexualized picture of their public proceedings. This doesn’t mean, of course, that an all-out ban is good by any means. When did St. Patrick’s Day become such a representation of our continuing failure to be intelligently inclusive?

You know what would help a little here? A pint of Guinness, and a friendly brawl between drunken friends, hopefully from all walks of life (we should be inclusive in our brawls, after all).

Editorial addendum:

Sorry Erskine but I can’t help sticking my face in on this one. Checking my news feeds yesterday, I came across a piece in Salon on what right-wingers apparently perceive as the “gay bully” terror, whereby the LGBT community bullies poor, defenseless politicians and sponsors to pull out of events for fear of what might happen to them if they don’t tow that pesky equality line. You have to wonder at the sanity of these people. But then, of late, the right have been all about preposterous role-reversal (just look at the ‘poor bully’ terror the top earning one percent in their gated and heavily protected enclaves have supposedly endured, the poor persecuted devils). It was only last month that Arizona, under the right’s favorite bullshit excuse of ‘religious freedom’, tried to make it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. The bill was thankfully vetoed, leading Tea Party dingbat Michelle Bachmann to denounce the “gay bullying” that killed it and was apparently indicative of how LGBT bullying gets to “dictate the agenda everywhere”.

So, it was no surprise then that the St. Patrick’s Day kerfuffle roused dusty vampire emperor Rupert Murdoch from his life-support coffin to stick his oar into the mess by tweeting his vapid opinion to the world at large (as if owning almost every newspaper on the street and a massive unbalanced chunk of TV news didn’t provide him with enough opportunity to vomit his drivel all over the rest of us). This is what he wrote:

Seriously, when will people learn to just shut the hell up?

U.S. St. Patrick’s Day Parades Attract Controversy 1 vote

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