By Patrick Markey
First Lady Hillary Clinton is taking flak from one section of Irish gay community over her decision to march in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which for the last decade has banned gay and lesbian group from marching.
Clinton, who is campaigning for a New York Senate seat, marched in a Queens parade last week that included open participation by gay groups. But the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, which protests the main Manhattan parade every year, launched a fresh attack against the first lady after Clinton appeared at a Wednesday meeting for independent Democrats in Manhattan.
"Hillary Rodham Clinton claims she supports the principle of inclusion, but her decision to march in the exclusionary St. Patrick’s Day parade makes a mockery of that position. How can she support inclusion and bigotry at the same time?" the group said in a statement released after the meeting.
"Saying you stand for inclusion and then marching in a parade whose recent history has been all about gay-bashing is outrageous," the statement said.
Clinton had initially wavered on whether she would march in the Fifth Avenue parade, which has been at the center of a controversy for 10 years. A number of city and state Democrats do not march in the parade, but Clinton’s likely opponent in the senate race, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, puts in an annual appearance.
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ILGO holds annual civil disobedience protests on Fifth Avenue before the march to protest AOH exclusion of gay and lesbian groups. The group was at its height in 1993 with around 450 members on their rolls. Current membership stands at around 250, the group said.
Last weekend Clinton joined a host of local Democrats to march through Sunnyside and Woodside for the first St. Patrick’s Day parade. Another Irish gay group, the more moderate Lavender and Green Alliance, pushed for inclusion in the parade as part of the Irish community.
Although the alliance hailed the Queens parade as a victory against discrimination, ILGO continues to dog Clinton on her participation in the Fifth Avenue march.
"It’s totally hypocritical," said Anne Maguire, an ILGO spokeswoman. "We knew she would use the Queens parade as a step into the Manhattan parade. We can march in the boroughs as much as we want but that doesn’t mean we’ll end up in the Manhattan parade," she said.
A Clinton campaign spokeswoman said only that the first lady would be marching in the parade.
ILGO has promised a large turnout for this year’s protest. Already 30 supporters had arrived on Monday from Ireland to join in the demonstration, Maguire said.