Irish LGBTQ+ group make history becoming first to march in the Bronx St Patrick’s Day parade

The event was a long time coming, arriving 23 years after the first invitation was rescinded.

To mark the entry of LGBTQ+ group in the Bronx St Patrick's Day parade, the photogrph shows the Lavender and Green Alliance on 5th Ave at the New York City St Patricks Day parade- March 17, 2016 from L to R Gene Walsh, Jeff Conway, Brendan Fay, Malachy McCourt, Danny Dromm.
Image: Amy Miller

The New York-based Irish LGBTQ+ group, Lavender and Green have made history by becoming the first LGBTQ+ group to march in the Bronx St Patrick’s Day Parade, 23 years after they were first invited.

Founded by Louth native Brendan Fay in 1994, the Lavender and Green Alliance was first invited to join the Throgg’s Neck St Patrick’s Day parade back in 1999 after Irish LGBTQ+ groups were refused permission to march in the Fifth Avenue parade. However, following Brendan’s arrest, alongside New York State Senator Tom Duane and City Council member Christine Quinn, the organisers of the Bronx parade rescinded the invitation.

As a result of the ongoing pressure from the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and other Church groups threatening to boycott parades if LGBTQ+ groups were allowed to participate, Brendan established the annual ‘St Pat’s for All’ parade in 2000 which has taken place on the first Sunday of March every year since.

Speaking ahead of yesterday’s Throgg’s Neck parade, Brendan said, “This Sunday we return to the place of exclusion and arrest but this time to celebrate welcome, Irish heritage and LGBT visibility. 

“We thank the parade organisers for their welcome. The inclusion of our Lavender and Green Alliance group in the Bronx St Patrick’s parade is a moment of healing and history that sends a positive message of equal belonging to our LGBT youth and our families.” He concluded, “Parades are always more joyful celebrations when all are welcome. This is a huge day for the LGBT Irish community, for the Bronx and for New York City.” 

The Alliance will be joined by a contingent of LGBTQ+ organisations, including the Stonewall Democrats who will march behind a silk tri-colour Irish flag created by Gilbert Baker who also designed the original 1978 LGBTQ+ rainbow flag.

President of Stonewall Democrats, Justin Sanchez stated, “The LGBTQ+ community is a diverse puzzle that only truly comes together when all the pieces unify to create one beautiful image. We are thankful to the organisers of the Throggs Neck St Patrick’s Day Parade for opening their hearts and their march to celebrate the tremendous contributions and proud heritage of the Irish and Irish American LGBTQ+ community.” 

Recognising the value of inclusion, he went on, “The Stonewall Democrats of New York City are thrilled to be able to work together with the Lavender and Green Alliance and the Third Avenue Business Improvement District to make this vision into a reality. We can only hope that celebrations of Irish culture and community all across the city take note of the beautiful inclusivity that the Bronx is making possible.”

Since the Fifth Avenue parade extended the inclusion of LGBTQ+ groups in 2016, other boroughs across the state have gradually followed suit. As a result of this year’s invitation from the Bronx, Staten Island remains the only borough not to allow LGBTQ+ participation in a St Patrick’s Day parade.

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