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Turning the Rainbow Green

Tomorrow marks St. Patrick’s Day.  A day set aside by many to drink and be merry while wearing green and proclaiming their Irish history.   Boston, a city known for its large Irish community has already held its parade, but something was missing.  Since 1737 Boston has been hosting the oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States and some believe the world. With the first Parade in Ireland not being held until 1931.

You might be thinking, a parade that has been around this long surely must be easily coordinated.  What could be missing?  What is missing from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston and indeed in many other cities is the voice of the gay community.  In 1995 the highest court in the United States voted that parade coordinators may deny entry of any groups they choose into their event.  There was hope that when the longtime organizer of the Boston parade retired last year that things would be different.  Sadly that was not the case.

It seems odd for a state like Massachusetts, one of the few states in the US to allow gay marriage to block this group of people from a parade.  Even in the Roman Catholic bastion that is Ireland the idea of homosexuality, and gay marriage has steadily been progressing.

In 1981 the European High Court of Human Rights struck down Northern Ireland’s criminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults.  Six years later the people of Ireland elected the first openly gay person to public office in the form of David Norris.  A year later Norris won his case Norris V. Ireland and the European Court of Human Rights struck down a law that criminalized male-to-male sexual acts.  Today same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Northern Ireland as they are in the United Kingdom, but Ireland remains unmoved in its definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.  In recent years public opinion polls have shown a greater percent of the population is open to the idea of same-sex marriages. In fact, the group MarriageEquality reports that 62% (as of February 2009) of the population now supports allowing gay couples to marry.

It seems odd then that gay groups are still being denied the chance to participate in St. Patrick’s Day parades.  After all there are many gay people who count themselves as Irish citizens or being of Irish heritage.  Indeed Ireland has enough gay history that author Brian Lacey has written a book about it.  For a holiday that seems to be less and less about the celebration of St. Patrick and more and more about drinking to excess, who really care’s if some of the gay community puts away the rainbow flag for a day and dons their finest green to take part?

Links of Interest:

Terrible Queer Creatures: A History of Homosexuality in Ireland by Brian Lacey

Gay Ireland

St. Patrick's Day

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