Since the 1990s, the event’s ban on pro-gay signs has sparked protests and lawsuits and led to the creation of an alternative, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens. In recent years, some elected officials — including de Blasio when he was a public advocate — attended the alternative parade and boycotted the traditional parade.
Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s predecessor, was a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage rights, but still marched in the traditional parade all 12 years he was in office.
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, who is Irish-American, was asked Thursday at an unrelated press conference in Manhattan if he planned to march in the parade and confirmed that he was. He did not elaborate.
The Boston parade, sponsored by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, has had a long and torturous history on the question of whether gay groups can march.
State courts forced the sponsors to allow the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston to march in the parade in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, the sponsors canceled the parade rather than allow the group to participate.
In 1995, the sponsors made participation by invitation only and said the parade would commemorate the role of traditional families in Irish history and protest the earlier court rulings. But several months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Massachusetts courts had previously violated the parade sponsors’ First Amendment rights when they forced them to allow the gay group to participate.
Walsh’s predecessor, Mayor Tom Menino, boycotted the parade after the Supreme Court ruling.
The parade has traditionally honored Irish-Americans and also celebrates “Evacuation Day,” George Washington’s victory that forced British troops out of Boston in 1776.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to march in the city’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 15, as he has every year since he took office and everyone is welcome to join, said his spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton.