Irish Queers, a New York City-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, is planning to stage a protest at Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day Parade after being excluded from the processions yet again.
Demonstrators said in a press release that they were specifically hoping to target the New York Police Department's (NYPD) participation in the event, scheduled for March 17 at 11 a.m.
"The NYC St. Patrick's Day parade, once a celebration of Irish New York, is now a 'solemn procession' of the religious right," the group says on its website. "It was redesigned so that anti-gay bigots could parade using the church's special right to discriminate. The parade officially sends an 'anti-gay message' -- and the NYPD is its biggest participant."
LGBT groups have fought for years to participate openly in the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, but the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who sponsor the event, have continually defended their exclusion of gay participants by reportedly defining the parade as a "private, religious procession" in court.
In previous years, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- herself an Irish-American lesbian -- has opted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in other cities, due to the New York parade's policy. "It just seems hard to accept, with all of the progress in our city, and all of the progress in the world, that we should be at loggerheads over the inclusiveness of the Fifth Avenue parade," she told The New York Times in 2009. "It kind of boggles the mind."
In 2011, Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore condemned the parade's exclusion of LGBT groups. "What these parades are about is a celebration of Ireland and Irishness," he said, according to Think Progress. "I think they need to celebrate Ireland as it is, not as people imagine it. Equality is very much the center of who we are in our identity in Ireland."
He went on to note, "This issue of exclusion is not Irish, let's be clear about it. Exclusion is not an Irish thing. I think that's the message that needs to be driven home."