Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Take in a parade? If so, you are clearly neither Bill de Blasio nor Marty Walsh.
The mayors of two major cities have opted out of marching in their cities’ St. Patrick’s Day parades, in what they call a show of support for gay groups that have historically been excluded from the events.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will not march in Monday’s parade in Manhattan, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh sat out Sunday’s parade in South Boston.
“I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” de Blasio said at a news conference last month.
As a gay man, I am delighted that is it becoming increasingly toxic to be publicly homophobic. As a person who values the freedom of people to think what they want, I am less sure I like how increasingly intolerant of dissent our side seems to be becoming.
It’s important to keep in mind the stakes we are discussing. We are not talking about gay or lesbian people being denied employment based upon their sexuality. We are not dealing with housing issues or equality under the law. We are talking about participating in a parade, which seems to me a large, marching expression of freedom of speech.
What is a parade, after all, but a massive symbol of something? The heritages and occasions being celebrated may vary, but parades are usually about something. In the case of St. Patrick’s Day, it is a combination of Irish pride and Catholicism.
As of now, traditional Catholic teaching (as I understand it) is that same-sex relationships are innately disordered and that marriage is ordained by God as a relationship between one man and one woman. Suffice it to say that I disagree strongly with both of these positions. But I also strongly believe that mau-mauing people into public pantomimes of agreement serves no good purpose.
If these parades were dedicated solely to symbolizing opposition to the cause of LGBT equality, I would be supportive of and grateful for the mayors’ opting out and similar shows of solidarity with people like me. Ireland’s history and Roman Catholicism comprise far more than that, of course. The country has a rich heritage and has contributed tremendously to Western culture. The church has done wonderful charitable work and has fostered great thinking and movements for justice.
If I, who am gay but neither Catholic nor Irish can appreciate this nuance, cannot the movement I support do so as a whole?
I would prefer a statement of regret that LGBT groups are excluded, and nothing more. I would prefer that the organizers of Boston and NYC Pride celebrations highlight the Catholic and Irish groups that choose to participate. I would prefer that the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade not be asked to pretend they believe things that they clearly do not.
We are winning the fight for equality at startling, heartening speed. We are doing so because of the strength of our argument and its ability to persuade. Coercion is not persuasion, and neither is capitulation. I think we would be wise to remember that.
If a person’s livelihood or the integrity of a family were at stake, then I would be all in favor of marshaling all forces in favor of rectifying a manifest injustice. But this is about a parade, and about the speech it represents. Their speech is as worthy of protection as ours, and forcing them to mouth along with the words we want them to say with do nothing to change anyone’s minds or hearts.