Why march in an alternate St. Patrick’s Day parade?

An injustice to one…

By Cathy Kristofferson, March 18, 2013

peaceparade2

Sunday I marched in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade, the alternate to what is now called ‘traditionalSt. Patrick’s Day parade.  Now that I have had a day to thaw and ruminate on why it is I marched for the 3rd year in a row I thought I might blog about it here.  Yesterday we were greeted with lovely sun but only mid-30s temps and a fairly decent wind so as I marched in the parade down a very sparsely lined parade route a voice kept saying why the heck do you keep doing this?

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Photo by Marilyn Humphries

I had to remind myself that marching in a parade such as this, like so many things many of us often do, is for those who cannot and who could not in the past. It’s a spin on injustice to one is an injustice to all.  I march because GLIB – the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston – had to get a court order to allow them into the parade back in 1992.  They marched “with the protection of police, a SWAT team and snipers perched on roof tops along the route – while rageful spectators hurled insults, rocks and other debris.”  I’ve read many were spat on, of course, as well. Not a pretty “hey, welcome to our parade” when a police van has to whisk the 25 brave pioneers away to safety from the end of the parade route.

GLIB was allowed to march in 1992 and 1993 due to State court orders. So, in 1994 the organizers, the Allied War Veterans Council, canceled the parade rather than allow GLIB to participate again. And then the Allied War Vets took it all the way to the Supreme Court who sadly overruled 7 previous court victories saying that the ‘private’ owners of the parade could in fact bar the gays as a First Amendment right.  And yes, that was the ‘90s.  But hey, the gays still can’t march.  Not in Boston, NYC or even in Cincinnati as I read over the weekend in email from GLSEN.

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Photo by Marilyn Humphries

In the 3 years I have marched a few similarly flipped middle fingers and taunts of “f*cking f*ggots” is the worst we’ve been met with, and they’ve decreased in number each year to none that I heard this year.  I wondered if that was due to the chilling temperature having kept the drunken hecklers indoors. This year though, once again, we had to deal with the City of Boston running the street sweeping equipment between the two parades to discourage onlookers to hang around to watch us, the LGBTQI group, despite the organizers having taken the city to court just 4 days prior.  It was left up to the Mayor of Boston and he seems to have sided with the bigots.  For shame.

I will also never forget a specific moment in the first year which will keep me marching for as long as they keep having alternate parades.  Midway through the parade I turned around and saw three beaming youth who had joined our contingent.  The youth who had joined us were members of a local GSA.  They said they never thought they’d ever get the chance to march in a parade on St. Patrick’s Day through their own neighborhood and would it be okay for them to join us we were happy to give them that chance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd of course I took the opportunity to lob a shot at the US Congressman who represents the parade’s district.  Rep. Stephen Lynch is running for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat.  He has refused on four occasions to sign the amicus brief asking for repeal of DOMA, and to co-sponsor UAFA (  the United American Families Act for binational LGBT couples rights).  He chose to march out in the Holyoke MA parade away from the Boston press this year, while our other politicians continue to boycott Boston.   It only seemed fair to target this representative who is clearly not statewide senatorial material.

The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Peace Parade  is called the “Peace Parade” because having ‘peace’ in your group’s name is also a reason for rejection!  So, the Vets for Peace and Join the Impact MA (LGBT) and other ‘undesirables’ got together in 2011 and planned the first alternate parade.  We were even criticized by LGBT groups at first.  Kara Suffredini, Executive Director of MassEquality proclaimed:

“You won’t find MassEquality there,” she wrote in her March 18 piece. “Although we appreciate that there will be a parade that is inclusive of openly LGBT people, MassEquality’s mission is and has always been to ensure full inclusion of LGBT people in all of the Commonwealth’s civic, cultural, and political celebrations. That includes the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We don’t want a separate parade. We are a valuable part of the Commonwealth’s social, cultural, and political fabric, and we want to celebrate in the same parade as everyone else.”

When asked whether she believed the Allied War Veterans Council would ever allow LGBT groups to march, Suffredini didn’t hesitate to respond. “I have absolutely no doubt that it’s going to change. It’s inevitable. But changing the minds of the St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers is nowhere on our priority list,” she said with a slight laugh.

But it seems now even they are coming around as this year MassEquality emailed urging folks to participate though they themselves still won’t as an organization.  Hey, there’s always next year.

bostonprideAlso this year, politicians running for local special election have joined the boycott and one has created a petition to let the gays back in.  That won’t happen, and I don’t care because unless they let all the groups that participate in the Peace Parade march in the traditional parade then none of us will.

For your listening pleasure, the story of the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB)’s fight in the mid 1990’s to march in South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. From Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who took their case to the Supreme Court:


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