St. Patrick’s Day parade: Lynch once again misses the point

I came across an interesting piece in the Dot Reporter about the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parades (there will be two) in South Boston.

As most of you know, with State Senator Jack Hart’s recent retirement, there will be a special election to fill his seat. The primary will be held, as in the U.S. Senate race, on April 30. The general election will take place on May 28, four weeks before the general in the U.S. Senate race. Three Democrats will appear on the ballot April 30. Two of them, State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry and Southie native and blogger Maureen Dahill, have stated that they will not march in the main parade unless GLBT groups are included. The third, State Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston, has taken a “split the baby” approach: he’s marching but accompanied by GLBT supporters (sans banner identifying them as such).

Notably absent from any leadership role in this discussion is Rep. Steve Lynch. Lynch was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1994, the year Wacko Hurley and the boys cancelled their parade rather than let the gays march in it. That year Lynch ran against incumbent State Rep. Paul Gannon in a Democratic primary. He proudly called himself the “conservative candidate” and based his campaign largely on Rep. Gannon’s insufficiently full-throated support of Wacko Hurley’s bigotry.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m not seeing much progress. Although Lynch, facing a statewide race, is now Mr.-I-support-equality-too (and our own David took me to task for questioning the sincerity of this conversion), he’s not putting his money where his mouth is. At our Newton Democratic Caucus on March 2, a member of my ward committee asked Lynch surrogate and State Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) if Lynch would ask the parade’s organizer (the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council) to abandon its decades-old policy of excluding GLBT groups. A few days later the Dot Reporter gave us the answer:

Congressman Lynch’s US Senate campaign said he is maintaining that parade organizers are allowed to decide which groups can march. “Congressman Lynch’s positions don’t change based on the office he’s running for,” Lynch campaign spokesman Scott Ferson said in a Saturday statement. “He has consistently maintained that this is a First Amendment issue, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that private parade organizers have the right to decide which groups can march. Congressman Lynch’s support of the First Amendment doesn’t change simply because he is running for Senate or because some candidates for office want to play politics.”

With all respect to Rep. Lynch and Scott Ferson, this is not a “First Amendment issue” at all. Surely Rep. Lynch is smart enough to understand that the Supreme Court’s ruling that the First Amendment gives the Council the Constitutional right to exclude GLBT groups does not mean that it must exclude them. Nor does it mean that it should exclude them. And it certainly does not mean that Steve Lynch lacks his own First Amendment right to say that it should not exclude them. He would in no way violate the Council’s First Amendment rights by stating that their exclusionary policy is wrong, and that he won’t have anything to do with their parade as a result. (This year, running in a statewide race, he’ll be marching in Holyoke rather than South Boston, but his spokesman said the Lynch campaign will have a “large presence” at the Southie parade.)

This weaselly hiding behind the Supreme Court puts Lynch in the company of none of the Democrats seeking his old State Senate seat. It does put him in the company of the presumptive Republican nominee in the First Suffolk, Joseph Ureneck, who called the issue “settled law.” It’s also “settled law” that white supremacists may march in Skokie; it doesn’t mean politicians have to march with them.

Lynch’s spokesman did point out the many ways in which, after a career of opposing same-sex marriage and hate crimes bills, the Congressman now supports the GLBT community. I am heartened to see that kissing Wacko Hurley’s proverbial ring is no longer considered good Democratic politics in the First Suffolk, and that Steve Lynch feels compelled to insist upon his pro-equality bona fides. But I am disappointed in Rep. Lynch’s utter failure to stake out a leadership position on this issue when it comes to the parade. He once again shows himself to be unworthy of being the standard bearer of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts.

This Bay Stater of Irish descent hasn’t gone to the “official” South Boston parade, which is out of touch with many Irish-Americans but also with mainstream opinion in Ireland, in twenty years. The Supreme Court upheld their right to choose “their message.” As long as their message is anti-gay and pro-dumb-war, I’m not going. But I’m proud to support the “second” parade sponsored by Veterans for Peace. For ten years now, the “official” Southie parade also has excluded Veterans for Peace, who quite rightly opposed the Iraq War. The organization’s South Boston chapter is run by Tony Flaherty, now 81, who served for nearly a quarter century in the U.S. Navy. His combat service in Vietnam affected him profoundly and prompted him to reconsider the ways in which our military is used. Those views were sufficient for his own best man, Wacko Hurley, to exclude him from the parade. So Veterans for Peace formed their own parade, which includes GLBT groups as well as activists for economic justice and environmental causes.

I hope that, this April 30, Democratic primary voters who believe in full equality for LGBT citizens will remember that not even the “new” and “evolved” Steve Lynch can find it in his heart to condemn in public, tepidly or otherwise, the ongoing discrimination of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council in its parade.



Discuss

22 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Good post

    This is the issue here

    It’s also “settled law” that white supremacists may march in Skokie; it doesn’t mean politicians have to march with them.

    I will defend the rights of Southie bigots to the death, but I do not have to march in or see their parade. Its sad too, since they have run out of most excuses. Their fear that the Irish pride parade would become a gay pride parade is totally unfounded. We can look to the Chicago parade and see that the sky has not fallen, since it has included gay marchers for years.

    Considering Southie allows Scoutroopers, least it can do is allow gays.

    • I had no idea there was a separate second parade.

      I’ve also thought that if they allow Scoutroopers, why not anyone else? But are the Scoutoopers actually part of the 2nd parade and not the official parade?

      • Scouttroopers

        are part of the “official” parade, as have been MIT solar car prototypes and floats depicting Reese’s peanut butter cups and ice cream cones. They don’t care as long as you’re not gay or opposed to George W. Bush’s wars.

        Since 2011 Veterans for Peace, summarily excluded from the “official” parade, has held the second parade, including all the groups not welcome at the first parade.

  2. Since the fall of DADT

    I wonder if Southie parade organizers may some day soon find that they have proudly, openly gay servicemembers and veterans (and their spouses!) marching in their parade, and not have the nerve to do anything about it.

    • They've had gay people

      Even some openly gay people in the parade for decades. What they’ve not had (except 1992 and 1993 under court order) is a group of citizens who want to carry a banner saying they’re both Irish and gay, and proud of both identities.

  3. The way to settle this once and for all....

    …is to not have private parades. Parades should be organized under the auspices of the community and the community should not be allowed to discriminate in this fashion. The other way might be for an LGBT or allied group to apply for its own parade permit that would “just happen” (wink, wink) to follow the same route immediately before or after this parade, with a transition seemless enough that most of the spectating public wouldn’t realize that officially it is two parades.

    • Separate, but equal is neither.

      How about the Parade Organizer’s acting like adults instead of spoiled little babies.

      • Consecutive is hardly separate...

        …and though ideally the organizers would join the 21st century the court has ruled they don’t have to, so I was looking for other solutions.

        • They already have

          consecutive parades, though it seems you’re proposing something mashed closer together so nobody can tell them apart. So far they city won’t allow that. They second parade is not allowed to begin until the first parade is a mile ahead of it.

          In any event, consecutive clearly is separate. The African-American WWII vets who came home to the south and walked just after the white veterans could attest to it. Looking for solutions is good, but we need real change more than gimmickry.

          • right about closer together

            I am envisioning a circumstance where the first unit of one parade marches immediately behind the last unit in the first parade, with no more gap than between units in the same parade. Keep the same reviewing stand up and everything. The only people who have to know are the parade organizers and the person at City Hall who issues the permits.

        • Boycott the stupid parade entirely

          until it stops discriminating, is also a solution. And “immediately after the parade” IS separate. What, are they going to be exposed to our Cooties, are parade watchers going to “Get Infected” with being Gay?
          Screw Them and the Parade they rode in on.

          • Again

            Its actually very stupid from the organizers standpoint. You are basically allowing sandtroopers and other ‘not Irish’ elements while stopping actual Irish and irish Americans from celebrating their heritage. The ‘gay’ part is just part of that heritage. Chicago has allowed LGBT marchers and it has not resulted in a second Pride parade but a civil and inspiring celebration of Irish diversity. Its also ridiculously insulting for the Archdiocese to get involved, at least in New York, since its exclusive to Irish Protestants and the many of them who also celebrate St. Patricks day as a neutral day of non sectarian Irish pride. Lastly we should just do as the Irish do and have lots of people involved.

            • In New York

              Until recently the AOH organized the parade. The AOH is expressly Catholic. Not that it makes it OK in my book.

              I couldn’t agree more about how absurd it is to allow Star Wars figures in while the “South Boston Allied War Veterans Council” excludes not only gay groups but Irish war veterans from South Boston.

              • Exactly

                Well thats the history of the whole thing. In Ireland, up until the 1970s when my friends mother grew up there, all you did on St. Patricks day was go to a Solemn High Mass in Latin followed by a reading of the Prayer of St. Patrick in Gaelic, followed by a light supper in the parish hall. No parades, no drinking, no nothing. Its just that in the US this became an important day to celebrate for the (largely Catholic) Irish immigrant population. Corned beef isn’t even an Irish staple, its all the immigrants could afford in the US. So I respect that the AOH did a lot for my people over the years, but it’s hurting many gay and straight ally Irish Americans with this policy.

                Exclude no man who a Hibernian in blood or spirit be.

  4. Lynch is a "Profile in Spinlessness"...

    To Paraphrase an earlier posting.

  5. More evidence Lynch is on the wrong side

    of history here. I hadn’t seen this before.

  6. Who is and who is not marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade?

    And which parade, the 1st or 2nd?

    Markey?
    Lynch?
    Winslow?
    Gomez?
    Sullivan?

    • Markey won't, I'm sure

      I think it’s safe to assume that MassEquality wouldn’t have endorsed him if he was planning something so counter to his usual LGBT support as marching in the bigot-run parade.

    • Lynch

      will march in Holyoke this year (they’re at the same time), but his Senate campaign says it will have a “significant presence” in the 1st Southie parade, not the 2nd. Every year leading up to this he’s marched in the 1st Southie parade.

      Not sure about the Republicans running. Brown used to march in South Boston.

    • I recall the Herald

      fuming last week, on its front page, that none of the three GOP candidates were invited to the breakfast (hosted this year by Jim Linehan due to Jack Hart’s resignation). Not sure about the parade, though.

      • Aren't all sitting Representatives automatically invited?

        Winslow is a state rep, so I think he can attend the breakfast on that basis.

        • No Peter, He was not invited

          The breakfast is hosted by the state senator AND the state representative from South Boston. Nick Collins could have hosted simply by rank.
          That’t why you would always see Mike Flaherty, Sr. running around on the podium handing notes to Billy Bulger and moving the show along.

          Since the two state legislators would host it the would invite all their colleagues as they themselves are invited to all their colleagues crappy district stuff.

          Not sure why Nickie C, didn’t take the mic. But Linehan should invite his colleagues and probably a few people that don’t usually get the invites.

          eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Sat 16 Mar 8:52 PM

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