Lynch, Linehan, Murphy, Collins carry water
Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. The women, one a Protestant and one a Catholic, founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. They had seen too many children killed; too many neighbors murdered in Northern Ireland. They organized peace demonstrations that united Roman Catholics and Protestants. They protested violence by British soldiers, Irish Republican Army (IRA) members (Catholics), and Protestant extremists.
The violence didn’t stop overnight in Northern Ireland, and the Northern Ireland Peace Movement faced the challenges all groups face. But two women stood up and said enough.
Demanding that gay organizations be allowed to march in a parade is nowhere near as important as protesting for peace in Northern Ireland. Williams and Corrigan are women of exceptional bravery.
Here, in Boston, the home of marriage equality, the organizers of the traditional St. Patrick’s Parade, The Allied War Veterans Council, have stood unchallenged by the sons and daughters of South Boston in their refusal to let a LGBT organization march in their parade. They have a legal right to exclude gay groups, but it is morally wrong.
This past Sunday, Irish pageantry was front and center in the South Boston Traditional St. Patrick’s Parade. For the second year in a row, MassEquality’s application to march was rejected. Last year, the group was rejected and directed to the United State’s Supreme Court’s decision (Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston) allowing the organizers to reject gay groups. This year, organizers said the parade was full.
The discrimination on parade is ignored by the mainstream news media. Pictures of the parade decorate newspapers and drive web page views. If the Allied War Veterans banned African American groups from marching, I hardly think NECN would be broadcasting the parade, or boston.com would be showing a parade slide show, or The Westin and Mt. Washington Bank would be sponsors.
So who spoke up? Not South Boston native Congressman Stephen Lynch, who is running for U.S. Senate. Lynch urged organizers to allow gay groups to march, but sent a contingent to march in the parade.
Not Boston City Councillor Bill Linehan, a South Boston native who represents Southie and the South End. Linehan considers himself a supporter of LGBT civil rights and noted that gays have marched in the parade, just not as a group. Sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” for parades. Linehan marched in the parade.
Not City Councillor Steven Murphy, another supporter of LGBT rights or Southie’s Nick Collins, a candidate for First Suffolk District Senate seat. Both marched in the parade.
All of these men are Democrats. All but one are, in fact, supporters of LGBT equality. All of these men have a solid base of supporters in Southie. Each of them has the muscle needed, the political capital, to demand the inclusion of gay groups. What they don’t have is the courage. Their lack of leadership might be understood if they were anti-gay; that they were standing up for the cause.
The only explanation is that they are afraid of the bigots in Southie (a minority) and the parade organizers (a handful).
How can we expect them to stand up to the Taliban, or Republicans for that matter, when these sons of Southie (with little to lose) are afraid of a parade?
Enter Southie native Maureen Dahill and Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D). They have the type of courage Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan would appreciate. Both are candidates for the first Suffolk District Senate seat, but did not let the campaign get in the way of their calling on the Allied Veterans to do the right thing and let gay groups march.
Maureen Dahill, founder of the web site www.caughtinsouthie.com, is running her first campaign and needs her home neighborhood to vote for her. She believes the exclusion of gay groups represents a Southie that never really existed. Dahill speaks of neighborhood pride, keeping Southie affordable and safe so generations of families can stay in the neighborhood. A South Boston that welcomes all, the way the neighborhood first welcomed Irish immigrants. Dahill ran a petition campaign demanding inclusion of gay groups in the parade.
Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry has never marched in the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Dorcena Forry’s campaign effort would be boosted by South Boston support. Dorcena Forry, too, put aside campaign issues to join Dahill is calling out the organizers. Dorcena Forry had been considering a strategy to approach the organizers when Dahill released her statement challenging the organizers.
What have we learned? Well, two women with much to lose understand how something as benign as a parade can wield such great power. They showed leadership in the face of bigotry and silence. The men showed no such courage and simply marched, smiled and waved.
Unlike their male counterparts, Dahill and Dorcena Forry best exemplified the Irish-American characteristic that should be celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day —bravery.