by Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director
In the final days of Lent, I had the great grace of a true Easter experience. The gracious members of Dignity/New York invited me to represent DignityUSA and march with them in the city’s iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade. For 25 years. many of them joined an organization called the Lavender and Green Alliance to protest the exclusion of openly LGBT people. They successfully organized a boycott of the parade by New York’s leading political figures, which lasted until LGBT people were no longer banned The inclusion of Lavender and Green Alliance in the 225th St. Patrick’s Day Parade meant that politicians from New York and Ireland joined the thousands of marchers in the most broadly inclusive parade in a quarter century.
As the Lavender and Green Alliance contingent assembled and waited for the arrival of Mayor de Blasio, who marched at the head of the parade and then came to march with us, there was ample opportunity to mingle with a crowd that represented a tremendous variety of humanity Among the hundreds marching under the Alliance’s banner were Irish musicians and step dancers, a group of Vietnamese college students, African-Americans, Spanish-speakers, families with teenagers, school-aged children and toddlers, people who used wheel chairs, LGBT activists — all proudly wearing lavender and green sashes, excited to make history by stepping onto Fifth Avenue and shattering yet another barrier for the LGBT community.
In a family scrapbook I looked at often as a child, there was a newspaper clipping that showed my father’s father as he marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade sometime in the 1960s, part of a contingent of Irish rebellion fighters being honored that year I could not help but wonder how he felt on that day, and what it meant to him to be cheered by the crowds that lined the parade route What would he have thought about the ban on openly LGBT groups that persisted for so long? Would he have shared my joy as I followed the route he walked so long ago, proud to be able to bring my Irish heritage, my Catholicism, and my lesbian identity together in this incredible moment?
The ability to celebrate the presence of LGBT people in every culture, race, class, ability group, gender, faith, and part of the world is an objective for all of us. The Lavender and Green Alliance’s presence in the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day parade represents one more milestone along the route to this goal.