A Brief History of Gays and the St. Patrick's Day Parade

By: Michelle Garcia

Above: Lesbians and gays march up Fifth Avenue in 1993

New York City Mayor David Dinkins passed on an offer to lead in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1991, deciding rather to march with LGBT Irish people, which had initially been denied until Dinkins intervened. Nonetheless, that group was booed for the entire 40 blocks. People on the sidelines hurled epithets and even beer cans at them, which Dinkins dodged with an umbrella. Two men were later arrested for throwing the cans.

"Every time I hear someone boo, it strengthens my resolve that it was the right thing to do," Dinkins said to the Associated Press.

Cardinal John O'Connor, who was known for being antigay, said he asked Catholics not to be violent during the march.

"That's not what we're about," he said according to the New York Times. "We don't return disrespect with disrespect."

Meanwhile Gov. Mario Cuomo also opted not to march at the front of the line, instead joining a group of children in wheelchairs who were initially denied space to march.

The following year, Dinkins, Cuomo, and other political colleagues boycotted the 1992 parade because of the antigay exclusion. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, the "oldest and largest a Roman Catholic organization in the United States" argued in federal court that it had the right to deny LGBT participants in the parade. The argument held up in court, after months of legal debate.

As a result, about 400 protesters lines the streets to counter the 150,000-strong throngs of Irish marchers. One protester held a sign reading, "My Irish eyes are bright and gay, but they are not smiling." Another sign read, "Gay, Irish and Proud," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Video from that parade: