March 17, 2006

NY St. Pat’s chairman compares gays to neo-Nazis

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The man in charge of Manhattan's St.
Patrick's Day parade has fueled a controversy by saying
allowing a gay group to join Friday's march would be like
permitting neo-Nazis to participate in an Israeli parade.

In an interview with The Irish Times, parade committee
chairman John Dunleavy defended the organizers' decision to bar
the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from participating in
the biggest St. Patrick's Day party in the world.

"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you
allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are
marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into
their parade?" Dunleavy was quoted as saying.

"People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish
Prostitute Association next?" he said.

The Roman Catholic organizers of the New York event have
long refused to let gays and lesbians march as a group because
the church believes homosexuality is wrong.

In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that organizers of a
St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston had the constitutional
free-speech right to exclude gays and lesbians.

The gay rights campaigners' cause has been taken up this
year by newly elected City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the
first openly gay woman to lead the council and an Irish

She boycotted the Manhattan march after failing to persuade
organizers to lift their veto. Quoted in The Daily News, she
condemned Dunleavy's comments, saying: "They are so outrageous,
I don't even think they dignify a response."


As marching bands led by shivering cheerleaders, ranks of
uniformed police and firefighters and revelers sporting green
hats and shamrocks lined up to join the parade up 5th Avenue,
several participants said the dispute was a side issue.

Kiki Culleton, a court employee from the Bronx, said
Dunleavy's remarks were "a bit strong" but that organizers did
not allow any group to march under a separate banner.

"It's all about the country of Ireland," she said, standing
by the drum she plays in the New York State Courts Band. "It's
an Irish Catholic Parade and our teachings, maybe not our
personal beliefs, but our teachings say that's wrong."

St. Patrick's Day has become a citywide party in New York
that sees bars decked out in green and hundreds of thousands of
revelers from diverse backgrounds joining the fun.

Gay couple Vincent Frato, a 45-year-old photographer of
Spanish and American Indian descent, and Jean-Charles David, a
31-year-old massage therapist from France, came to the parade
in sweatshirts with the logo "Men in Kilts New York."

"In the Irish community here, there's a lot of firefighters
and police officers and traditionally it's not a very
gay-friendly crowd, but that's changing," David said, sporting
a red tartan kilt that he made himself.

Frato said Dunleavy's comments did not reflect the views of
most New Yorkers. "It's a very liberal city and outside of the
parade organizers, everyone is welcoming," he said.