March 18, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay groups ‘not excluded’ from D.C. parade
Patricia Hawkins, Pat Hawkins, D.C. Center, St. Patrick's Day Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

Patricia Hawkins, who serves on the board of the D.C. Center, said the group plans to march in D.C.’s St. Patrick’s Day parade next year. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Unlike their counterparts in New York City and Boston, no LGBT Irish organization or any other LGBT group has applied to become a contingent in D.C.’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, even though the parade has no policy that would exclude an LGBT contingent.

“We are a non-profit,” said Colleen Cohan, vice chair of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee of Washington, D.C. “So we don’t exclude any group that wants to participate in the parade.”

Cohan said the D.C. committee does have a policy banning “political campaigning” or commercial advertising by members of parade contingents. But she said contingent participants are free to carry signs or a banner displaying the name of their organization.

The mayors of New York City and Boston chose not to march in St. Patrick’s Day parades in their cities this year as a show of solidarity with the LGBT community because parade organizers ban participation of contingents that self-identify as LGBT.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Monday morning at the Gracie Mansion mayoral residence but boycotted the parade in Manhattan later in the day.

“I simply disagree with the organizers of the parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” CNN quoted him as saying at a news conference.

De Blasio marched in a separate St. Patrick’s Parade over the weekend in the Borough of Queens, which allows out gay contingents.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh decided early Sunday, March 16, not to march in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Parade shortly before the parade was scheduled to start that same day, saying, “I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city,” according to CNN.

Cohan said she was informed by one of her colleagues on the D.C. St. Patrick’s Parade Committee that an LGBT group contacted the committee about participating in the parade last year but never followed up.

“I believe it was last year that we received an inquiry from an LGBT group,” she said. “And we directed them to apply online, to submit the application online. But we never received an application and that was the last we ever heard from them.”

She said she doesn’t know the name of the LGBT group that contacted the committee.

Lesbian activist Patricia Hawkins, who serves on the board of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, said it may have been the center’s executive director David Mariner that made the inquiry to the parade committee.

According to Hawkins, Mariner indicated the center’s staff and volunteers may not have had the time to organize an LGBT parade contingent for this year’s parade. In an email, Mariner told the Blade a D.C. Center spokesperson would provide a comment on the matter shortly.

“We definitely plan to do this next year,” she said. “I have been at the parade almost every year here in D.C. and sometimes in New York,” said Hawkins, noting that she’s half Irish.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • I reached out to other D.C. St. Patrick’s Parade Committee members who informed me that in 2013, the LGBT Contingent did complete an online application and were listed in the 2013 Parade Brochure on page 17 as participating in the parade. This brochure is still listed on the dcstpatsparade.com website.

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