R5 A Gay Old Time?

Every March, New York City hosts the world’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade—along with a recurring controversy: self-identified Irish gay and lesbian groups have been denied participation in the parade. To date, the parade successfully has withstood legal challenges to include Irish gays and lesbians from marching under their own banner because the parade is held not by the city but by a private entity—The Ancient Order of Hibernians—which apparently has the right to discriminate.

What about Westchester—has gays marching been an issue here? According to stpatricksdayparade.com, there are six St. Patrick’s Day parades held in the county. When we tried checking in with each to find out, we got more than we bargained for.

Eastchester (held March 15)
“We haven’t gone down that road at all,” says Tom Huvane, the co-chair of Eastchester’s parade. “It hasn’t been something we’ve discussed within our group.”

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Mount Kisco (held March 14 at 2 pm)
According to William McCormack, president of Division 16 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, which organizes Mount Kisco’s parade, any request by a gay and lesbian group to march in their parade “would have to go to the committee” for consideration and approval or denial. No requests have been received thus far.

Peekskill (date and time TBD at press time)
Parade organizer Kevin Dwyer deferred to Parade Chairman Jack Murphy. As of press time, Murphy hadn’t responded—and Dwyer stopped responding.

Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown (held March 15 at 1:30 pm)
“It’s an issue that’s never come up and please, God, don’t let it ever come up,” says Parade Coordinator Mary Grace Di Clemente. “That’s a very sensitive spot.” Di Clemente notes that “groups in our parade march by invitation,” but adds groups could apply. “I would have to take it under advisement. It would be brought up to the board. We want to build this parade. We don’t want to see it go down.”

White Plains (held March 14 at noon)
According to White Plains St. Patrick’s Parade Committee Chairman John Martin, “this issue has never come up. I suspect it’s just not as much of an attention-getting issue up here as it is in the city.” He adds, “We’ve never turned down anyone yet—and I’m not sure we ever would.”

Yonkers (held March 8 at 1:30 pm)
“They’ve never applied,” says Yonkers Parade Chairman Larry McCrudden. “What they did to the New York parade is a shame. A lot of people put in a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of money only to have you guys forget about St. Patrick, who’s the patron saint of Ireland, and start writin’ about this stuff.” When asked to clarify the parade’s policy regarding gays and lesbians, McCrudden said, “I have no idea. They can march with groups, if they belong to the AOH or the Scouts or something like that. We probably have a lot of gays and lesbians marching in the parade.” Still, would they be allowed to march under their own banner? “We’d have to see if they could fit in.” When asked to clarify what he meant by “fitting in,” McCrudden said, “This is the end of the conversation,” and hung up on us.

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According to a spokesperson for The Loft, a gay and lesbian community-services center in White Plains serving the lower Hudson Valley, there have been no reports of failed or spurned attempts by county gays and lesbians to openly march in any of the Westchester parades. The spokesperson opined that the county simply may lack the critical mass of Irish gays and lesbians interested in forming such a discrete marching group for any of the parades in Westchester.

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