What’s Really Holding Back St. Patrick’s Day Parade Organizers

A school's decision not to march gets at the blunt reasons for excluding LGBT groups from identifying themselves at the parade.

Martin Walsh

Associated Press

It’s that time of year when Boston’s right-minded folks shake our heads at the stated excuses for excluding LGBT groups from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With parade organizers finally negotiating with leaders of the gay community to find a resolution, the attempts at reason have grown even louder.

Even this year, parade organizers say they don’t want LGBT groups to wear T-shirts or hold signs that refer to sexual orientation because, as the Globe puts it, “they say it does not fit with the parade’s Irish and military themes.”

In her Herald column calling for an outright end to the parade, Margary Eagan waves those excuses away. Forget “Irish themes” because Ireland is a country where a majority supports gay marriage and the law bans discrimination against gay people. And don’t blame the U.S. military, because even they have done away with a policy of “you can march with us as long as you don’t identify yourself.” Why should a veteran-organized group espouse such a thing?

But of course, vague reliances on Irish heritage and military values are just kinder ways of saying what’s really motivating the parade organizers.  “Parade organizers said their concessions have had repercussions,” the Globe reports. “A band from a small central Massachusetts school that had participated in the parade for more than two decades threatened to pull out if MassEquality is allowed to march.”

Indeed, Brother Thomas Dalton wrote in a press release that the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Harvard “… does not condone and will not appear to condone the homosexual lifestyle.” They have decided not to march:

“We must stand firm with the Church which states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, that ‘homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity’ and ‘are intrinsically disordered …Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Here, of course, is the real reason for keeping homosexuals out of the parade: It is not an issue of thematic unity, but one of religious objection to even sharing a street with gay people. It inspired this epic zinger from Globe columnist Kevin Cullen: “I hate to break it to Brother Thomas, but I’ve seen intrinsically disordered acts of grave depravity on and off Broadway during and after some parades, and none of them involved homosexuals.” Cullen preaches following Pope Francis’s advice to soften the church’s tone on divisions over sexuality. Based on the tenor of conversation surrounding what might be historic progress on an issue that many wish were already relegated to history…this doesn’t seem to be the year for softened tones.