A spokesman for the mayor told the Echo Monday that Menino will attend the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in South Boston and then will participate in other Irish-related events around the city. “He routinely doesn’t march in the parade, and this year will be no different,” said Seth Gitell. “But he will be out and about in the community at various events.”
Menino’s position has come under increasing criticism in recent years from prominent Irish Americans who say that the office of mayor should be represented in the parade. Among those who have expressed disappointment in the past with Menino’s position are former mayor and Vatican ambassador Ray Flynn, David Burke of the AOH’s national board, City Councilor Jim Kelly, and C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.
Menino’s refusal to march stems from bitter legal wrangling that engulfed the parade after a group calling itself the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group applied to march in the parade in 1993. When the South Boston Allied War Veterans, the parade organizers, denied that application, the group sought and received an order in Suffolk Superior Court compelling the Veterans to include GLIB in the event.
The Veterans then appealed that ruling to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, claiming that they had a right under the First Amendment to exclude any group imparting a message the organizers did not wish to convey.
On March 11, 1994 the SJC upheld the ruling of the Superior Court, ordering the Veterans to include GLIB in the parade. The Veterans then startled the Boston community, canceling the 1994 parade one week before it was to take place. An angry Menino then asked other citizen groups to take over the parade, but none agreed to do so.
“Nobody stepped forward when I asked them to step forward,” Menino said at the time. “We’re losing a lot of Boston’s tradition by not having the parade. We have to go ahead. Next year we’ll have a big parade.”
Tensions between the Veterans and the mayor escalated later in 1994 when the Veterans took the City to federal court, claiming Menino was stalling over issuing it a permit for the 1995 parade. In January 1995, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolfe ordered the City to issue a permit to the Veterans. And in a major victory for the parade organizers five months later, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Massachusetts SJC decision and gave complete control of the parade to the Veterans under the First Amendment.
Menino’s annual participation in the controversial gay pride parade has compounded the resentment that some Irish Americans feel over the mayor’s annual snub of the South Boston parade. “He’s created a hostile atmosphere for Catholics in this city, and 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,” Doyle said about the mayor’s decision to shun the parade again.
John “Wacko” Hurley, chief organizer of the parade, said that this year’s parade, which will be on March 21, will be one of the biggest and best ever. “The Irish Air Corps is coming, and we’ve got 17 bagpipe bands,” he said. “This will be as big as anything we’ve had in 35 years.”