On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is a little bit Irish, but that doesn't mean that everyone gets to march in the parades to celebrate the Irish heritage that we all get to adopt for a day. Because in St. Patrick's Day parades across the country, LGBT organizations are routinely excluded.
In Cincinnati, the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is being excluded from this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade because it is an LGBT-affiliated organization. GLSEN is an organization that makes a real difference in the lives of young people, creating safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The organization is a national network of students, educators and parents who are working to eliminate bullying and keep young people safe at schools.
According to GLSEN, they were denied by one of the parade organizers, Chris Schulte, because, "it's their parade, it's an Irish Catholic parade and we don't want any members of the gay and lesbian community to be affiliated." This form of exclusion and discrimination continues to go on, despite the fact that the parade is funded by city money.
One City Council member, Chris Seelbach, who is openly gay, attempted to negotiate with parade organizers to allow the youth-serving organization to participate in the parade, but was flatly turned down. He is now withdrawing from the parade, along with several other elected officials.
This sort of discrimination sends a devastating message to LGBT youth in Cincinnati that they are not welcome. LGBT students are often the most bullied and excluded in high school, and this parade sends the message that a parade intended for the community also will exclude them.
Josh Wagoner, co-chair of GLSEN's Greater Cincinnati chapter, has started a Change.org petition, asking the Cincinnati St. Patrick's Day Parade planners to reverse their decision.
Cultural institutions like St. Patrick's Day parades should be open and available to all. For the past year, GLAAD has worked to change the discriminatory ban on gay scouts and leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. Millions of people have signed petitions supporting dropping the ban after hearing the stories of Jennifer Tyrell, Ryan Andresen, Zach Wahls and Will Oliver. GLAAD calls on St. Patrick's Day parade organizers across the country to drop bans on LGBT people and organizations.
Tell the Cincinnati St. Patrick's Day Parade to reverse its decision to ban GLSEN from marching. Click here to sign.