Discrimination has got to go

From left to right: St. Pat's for All From left to right: St. Pat's for All parade Grand Marshall Terry McGovern, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rory O'Neill (aka Panti Bliss) chat before the start of the parade on Skillman Avenue in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens on March 02, 2014. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Kudos to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council for officially boycotting the St. Patrick's Day Parade for its embarrassing history of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers. For years, parade organizers have forbidden people from marching behind a banner celebrating dual identities: Irish and queer.

Based upon Catholic teachings about homosexuality, the prohibition seems absurd in 2014 when we have same-sex marriage in New York state -- now legal in 16 other states and Washington, D.C. Gays march openly in Dublin and in other ethnic parades in our city, including the alternate St. Patrick's Day Parade in Queens.

I take this ban personally as an Irish American who is also gay. My mother was born in Country Cork, Ireland. I attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. I grew up listening to Irish music -- jigs, reels, horn pipes. My grandfather, an excellent step dancer, passed down his heritage. My 6-year-old great niece, Erin, is entering dance contests (known as a feis, pronounced fesh.)

When my mother and her sisters were young, they took the bus from New Jersey to march up Fifth Avenue wearing the green and their white cable knit sweaters. I have pictures of them smiling and waving to the crowds. Not like the hostile reception I got when I marched in protest in the early 1990s with Mayor David Dinkins.

Dinkins walked up Fifth Avenue with ILGO, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, who'd been denied a permit. No banner was necessary as the mayor's presence signaled our arrival. We filed up Fifth Avenue to jeers and taunts and a smattering of applause. I'll never forget the scary experience because it gave me a sense what it feels like to be a scorned minority.

I think the reception at this month's parade would be more welcoming, but Irish LGBT New Yorkers will never get the chance to openly express our pride on March 17 unless this outdated ban is lifted. I'm outraged by this institutionalized bigotry under the guise of religion. It has no place in New York City.

Shame on the parade organizers.

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Kate Walter is a freelance writer living in the West Village.

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