Mayor Says City Will Abide by Judge’s Ruling
NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal judge blocked the city’s attempt to force sponsors of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade to include a gay group, calling the parade a form of speech protected by the Constitution.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Roman Catholic fraternal organization, had threatened to cancel this year’s parade, the nation’s oldest and largest, if forced to allow the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization to march.
″A parade is, by its nature, a pristine form of speech,″ U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy said in his ruling Friday.
He said the Hibernians couldn’t be forced to include a group whose beliefs conflicted with its own, and compared the city’s Human Rights Commission to the the ″thought police″ of George Orwell’s novel ″1984″ for ordering the group’s inclusion.
The Hibernians had argued that the parade is an expression of religious beliefs protected by the right to free speech. They noted that it is held on Fifth Avenue chiefly because it passes St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The judge prohibited the city from interfering with the Hibernians’ right to conduct the parade. The city had revoked the Hibernians’ parade permit.
Duffy said his ruling applied only to this year’s event. A permanent judgment would be ″inappropriate in a case such as this where the facts have seemed to shift as the desert sands in the midst of a wind storm.″
The parade, started in 1762, has been staged by the Hibernians for most of the last 153 years.
″Fabulous,″ said John Dunleavy, acting chairman of the parade. ″This means the parade will go on.″
Mayor David Dinkins said he was disappointed by the decision but would instruct police to issue a parade permit to the Hibernians.
″However, I urge the parade sponsor to reconsider its exclusionary policy,″ Dinkins said in a statement from Japan, where he was on a trade mission.
Brendan Fay, a member of the parade committee for the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, said the group was ″very saddened and outraged by this.″
He said the group would stage some kind of protest on St. Patrick’s Day.
″What is legal is not necessarily right or just,″ Fay said. ″We will be present on Fifth Avenue on March 17. That is our right.″
The Hibernians took the issue to court after the city refused to grant them a parade permit.
The dispute began in 1991 when the gay group asked permission to march but was barred by the parade committee. A local Hibernian chapter invited ILGO to march with it, and Mayor David Dinkins gave up his spot at the front of the parade to march with the group.
Last year, the gays were banned altogether and staged their own counter- parade the same day, attracting more politicians than the main event by the Hibernians.