This morning, six months ahead of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, event organizers announced that for the first time in its 252-year history, LGBT groups will not be barred from marching under gay-identifying banners. Gays were always “allowed” in the parade, but sort of in the way that a mouse is “allowed” in your apartment—if you can’t get rid of it, it had better just stay quiet. Now the dogmatic, exclusionary cat is away, and the LGBT Irish will be allowed to march down 5th Avenue with everyone else. What prompted this dramatic turnaround? Has the Vatican had a change of heart? Nah, it’s pretty much just about money. But still!
For his first St. Patrick’s Day as mayor, this year Mayor Bill de Blasio snubbed the famously anti-gay 5th Avenue parade in favor of St. Pat’s for All, an annual parade held in Queens. Mayor David Dinkins caused an uproar in 1991, when he marched in solidarity with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization in the 5th Avenue parade, an act that was met with loud and nearly violent protest. Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, meanwhile, took part in the LGBT-exclusive 5th Avenue parade every year they were in office, respectively.
But de Blasio’s dissent alone was not enough to derail the parade’s longstanding policies. Rather, its politics have begun to cost money: Most notably, Guinness pulled its sponsorship of the parade this year over the exclusion of LGBT groups. On the occasion of today’s announcement, the parade committee stated, “Organizers have diligently worked to keep politics—of any kind—out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event. Paradoxically, that ended up politicizing the parade.” The “politics of no politics” is a fairly standard-issue establishment lie: It is the same logic that labels Michael Sam’s coming out “a distraction,” and claims that not addressing controversial issues—or blatantly suppressing them—is a way of not getting involved.
But whichever gears are really turning behind this step forward, the outcome is a net positive for the city, and for the Irish and LGBT communities: Gay Pride and Irish Pride need no longer be mutually exclusive on March 17th.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.