After years of strong resistance, organizers of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on September 3 said that gays and lesbians will be allowed to march under their own banner for the first time, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan—the parade’s grand marshal next March—has welcomed the move.
The decision is another sign of how quickly changing public attitudes toward gay people have pushed changes in state laws, government policies, and the practices of private entities.
Dolan’s positive response may also point to a shifting dynamic within the Catholic Church on gays and lesbians since the election of Pope Francis last year. Francis has made it clear he wants church leaders to highlight Catholicism’s outreach to the poor and vulnerable rather than always fighting culture war issues on gay marriage and the like.
The church’s teachings on gays lesbians have not changed, as was evident this week when two teachers at a Catholic high school in St. Louis were fired when administrators learned the women were married, and a teacher at a Catholic high school in suburban Detroit who is a lesbian said she was fired when she became pregnant.
But the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which is not run by the church, allows for some wiggle room. Dolan said Wednesday that the parade committee that operates the annual event “continues to have my confidence and support.”
“Neither my predecessors as Archbishop of New York nor I have ever determined who would or would not march in this parade … but have always appreciated the cooperation of parade organizers in keeping the parade close to its Catholic heritage,” he continued.
Dolan concluded by praying “that the parade would continue to be a source of unity for all of us.”