A spokesperson for the mayor said last week that the mayor has never marched in the parade since he took office in 1993 because he believes that it “excludes a segment of our city’s population,” alluding to the homosexual community. “He will be at the South Boston breakfast, but his position on the parade hasn’t changed,” the spokesman said.
Critics of the mayor’s stance bristle at suggestions that the parade is excluding anyone on the basis of one’s sexuality.
“I have no doubt that gays and lesbians have been marching in this parade since its inception,” said Boston City Councilor James Kelly. “But what the veterans don’t want are groups marching with banners proclaiming their sexual preferences. That’s not what this parade is about.”
The parade has been organized by the South Boston Allied War Veterans since 1947, when Mayor James Michael Curley first gave them the opportunity to run the event. Controversy erupted in 1992 when a group calling itself the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston applied to march. When the veterans denied the application, the group sought and received an order in Suffolk Superior Court compelling the veterans to include GLIB in the parade.
Three additional years of controversy and litigation engulfed the parade, culminating in the June 1995 unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the veterans had a First Amendment right to exclude any “group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey.”
Chester Darling, who successfully argued the veterans’ case before the Supreme Court, said that Menino should be more respectful of the veterans and the high court.
“The veterans have never expressed any animus toward gays, and the mayor knows that,” he said. “He marches in the gay pride parade, but he won’t march beside the men who fought for this country. I personally feel he shouldn’t be allowed back into the parade until he issues an apology to the veterans.”
Menino’s participation in the gay pride parade, which is held annually in June, has not been without controversy and has compounded the resentment that some feel about his snub of the South Boston parade. During one of the gay pride parades, Menino marched near a float consisting of topless women simulating sex on a roll-away bed, while gyrating men clad only in athletic supporters threw condoms at the spectators.
“It isn’t really surprising that the mayor doesn’t march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, given his pandering subservience to the militant homosexual community and his rejection of Catholic values,” said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. “I personally don’t see how we honor St. Patrick by showcasing nominally Catholic politicians like Menino who spend their entire political careers opposing Catholic morality.”
David Burke, a national director of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, described Menino’s absence from the parade as “an insult and slap in the face” to Irish-Americans, while former Boston mayor and ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn, who now hosts a radio show on WROL-AM (950), has told listeners that the mayor should march in the parade “out of respect for the traditions of this parade and the people who work so hard to put it together.”
John “Wacko” Hurley, chief organizer of the parade, said Monday that a highlight of this year’s parade will be a children’s entertainment group, Pedziwiatry, which has won numerous awards throughout Europe. The group, which is a member of the European Youth Partnership under the auspices of UNESCO, often does charity shows for senior citizens and hospital patients. It also did a special presentation in Rome for Pope John Paul II.
This year’s parade will be held Sunday, March 16, at 1 p.m. The population of South Boston typically swells from about 40,000 to 750,000 during that weekend as families hold reunions and people flock to the area to take part in the festivities.