New York split over gays' parade rights

NEW YORK'S Mayor, David Dinkins, has attracted the wrath of the Catholic Church and plunged the city's Irish community into turmoil by awarding the permit for this year's St Patrick's Day parade to a group willing to embrace gays.

The long-running controversy over gay participation in the parade boiled over last week when the Dinkins administration ruled that the group that has sponsored it for almost 150 years, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, should lose its permit because of its refusal to allow homosexuals to march.

On Sunday, Cardinal John O'Connor took to the pulpit at St Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan to denounce the Mayor, accusing him of breaching the traditional frontier between church and state by attempting to turn the parade from a religious spectacle into a political one.

The dispute, which is splitting Irish- Americans and embroiling all the city's political establishment, is likely to be resolved only in the courts over the coming weeks. The Ancient Order of Hibernians is specifically charging City Hall with flouting its First Amendment right to free association.

The Order has long held that allowing gay groups to march in the parade would contravene Catholic teaching against the homosexual lifestyle.

Mr Dinkins, through his Irish-American Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, has awarded the permit to the St Patrick's Day Parade Committee, a group newly formed by liberal Irish-American allies of the Mayor. The group has confirmed it will allow any Irish-based organisation to take part and express their views with banners, including the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organisation.

The new policy would also allow groups sympathetic to the Irish Republican Army to participate. 'We will be encouraging people to be more active in terms of presenting viewpoints with regard to the partition of the north of Ireland,' Brian O'Dwyer, a member of the new committee, confirmed.

Addressing his weekly Mass, Cardinal O'Connor was blunt in his assault on Mr Dinkins. 'Do the Mayor and the Police Commissioner agree to his arbitrary transformation from the religious to the political? Will other religiously related activities become equally vulnerable to arbitrary politicisation in this land which boasts of its tradition of separation of church and state?'

The Cardinal's outburst prompted other city leaders to defend the Ancient Order of Hibernians. This week, the City Council speaker, Peter Vallone, cited a 1914 city ordinance that provides a permanent authorisation for city-centre marches with traditions stretching back beyond 1904. His contention that this also ensures an inviolable right to the Ancient Order to organise the march is disputed by the Mayor, however.

Gay rights activists, meanwhile, have turned their fire on Cardinal O'Connor, suggesting he is in breach of religious teaching by endorsing discrimination. 'It's remarkable that a religious leader should crusade for the right to discriminate against a class of people and then complain bitterly when it's not allowed,' Eileen Clancy of the Gay and Lesbian Organisation argued.

Mr Dinkins said he made the ruling in the hope that the arguments over gay inclusion which have marred the parade for several years, could be put to rest. But the risk now arises that the celebration may degenerate completely this year. The Cardinal has threatened to urge traditional participants, notably from schools in his archdiocese, to boycott the parade if the Ancient Order's permit is not reinstated.

In City Hall, meanwhile, officials are fearful that the fracas will result in two marches being held, one official with embarrassingly thin attendance, and the other non-official, sponsored by the Ancient Order and drawing the biggest crowds.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most