Protesters call for ouster of thousands of uniformed public servants from anti-gay parade.

NYC – Irish Queers have assembled a picket line this morning at the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade, protesting the homophobia of the parade – and the uniformed public servants who march in it. Chanting “Irish queers into the Irish parade!” and “If gays can’t march, cops can’t either!” the protesters continue a 17-year challenge to the parade’s discrimination.

Since 1991, the parade has been imbued with an explicitly anti-gay message by organizers – which makes the City-sponsored participation of thousands of uniformed New York City police, firefighters and EMTs discriminatory and improper. Irish Queers has called on the Police and Fire Commissioners to prevent contingents of uniformed officers from marching in the parade.

“We’re sick of hearing city officials say they can’t intercede in the homophobia because it’s a religious march. If it’s a religious anti-gay parade, and uniformed cops and firefighters have to be pulled out,” said Tierney Gleason of Irish Queers. “It can’t be both privately religious and publicly Irish. It’s time for the city to pull the plug on this bait-and-switch game.”

“New Yorkers are reminded daily that police officers carry deep biases against the people they’re bound to serve – against people of color, against immigrants, people with AIDS, LGBT people. But public servants do not have the right to express those biases in their official capacity; to create an environment of fear and bias that denies us access to municipal services, especially emergency services,” said J.F. Mulligan, who organizes with Irish Queers. “Police participation totally violates the separation of church and state. Uniformed police have no right to march in this parade.”

The St. Patrick’s Day parade was legally redefined by the NYC Parade Committee as a private, religious procession in order to to justify keeping LGBT groups out. In the early 1990s, the Parade Committee used this defense to defeat a discrimination claim brought by the NYC Human Rights Commission. But the Archdiocese of New York, in an unrelated statement pertaining to Holy Week, recently issued a statement that it views the NYC St. Patrick’s parade as a purely civic event.

“The homophobia and vitriol of this parade – which we see every year as we picket – can no longer be hidden behind religion. The parade organizers are plain old bigots, abusing the platform of this important Irish American cultural event to express their hatred of LGBT people,” said Gleason. “The city must stop allowing the parade organizers this loophole to legalize discrimination.”

Irish Queers, which evolved out of the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organization in New York City, is active on immigrant justice, Northern Ireland self-determination, anti-racism, reproductive justice and other social justice issues.