The fight continues over the banning of openly gay groups to march in both the New York City and Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Back in the 1990s the non-profit groups that put on each parade re-organized in order to proclaim the parade a religious (Irish Catholic) processional in order to keep the legal right to exclude people despite anti-discrimination laws. And that’s fine.
The troublesome question has been ever since then, why do non-irish and non-catholic elected officials march in a religious processional? And more importantly, why are police and firefighters allowed to march in uniform?
The last point is particularly important. It has long been the consensus opinion (and has even been accepted as a statement of fact at the federal appeals court level), that allowing the police to participate in uniform in a discriminatory rally or parade gives ordinary citizens the impression that the police department (and the entire justice system) endorses the bigoted message of said event. When police participated in Anti-segregationist Marches in the past, it had a chilling effect on the minority communities. People in those communities became even more reluctant to call the police to report crimes, afraid to cooperate with police in the investigation of crimes, et cetera. All one has to do is to watch the video of nearly an entire contingent of cops in uniform marching in the St. Patrick’s day parade a few years ago all flipping off a small group of gay protestors standing along the parade route to understand what kind of message that conveys.
The new mayor of NYC decided not to march in this year’s parade (as did the mayor of Boston). The NYC mayor instead participated in the St Pat’s For All parade earlier in the month. Note, that article mentions a deal that was being worked out for one gay group to march in the Boston parade, but that deal has since been rescinded.
The mayor has declined to try to forbid NYPD officers from marching in uniform in the bigots’ parade, claiming it is a free speech issue. Except, the courts ruled long ago that because marching in uniform creates the impression that the city endorses a discriminatory message, that the city’s responsibility to serve all citizens equally trumps the rights of the cops. They can’t forbid the cops to march, they can’t forbid the cops to march with banners and signs that say they are cops, but they can forbid them to march in uniform.
The sad thing is that, since gay rights groups have been lobbying these city governments to ban the uniforms from the parade, parade organizers and their apologists have squawked loudly, claiming that doing so would be discrimination!
This coming from the people who created new religious non-profit corporations to sponsor the parade for the explicitly stated purpose to discriminate. It’s all well and good to discriminate against gay citizens, but Saints Preserve us if you suggest that maybe the police department shouldn’t endorse such a thing…