All is not well in Beantown. The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade is the latest target in the LGBT bullying campaign to destroy freedom of expression. The Allied War Veterans of South Boston have sponsored a parade since 1901 celebrating the Feast of St. Patrick and the British Evacuation of Boston during the Revolutionary War. The veterans group won a Supreme Court battle more than 20 years ago confirming their right to set whatever criteria they please for parade participants. Nevertheless, a group which styles itself MassEquality wants to change all that.
Various LGBT groups have been holding their own mock parade immediately after the “official” (i.e., privately organized) St. Patrick’s procession for several years now. It is a long-established precedent that any group should have equal access to public venues for rallies and parades. Sure enough, the agitators at MassEquality are free to march the exact same route. This is not in question. Furthermore, same-sex marriage is already recognized in Massachusetts, so the LGBT groups already have what they claim they want. This sort of provocation is truly unnecessary.
Meanwhile, Boston’s nominally Catholic mayor, Marty Walsh, is getting involved to pressure the Allied War Veterans to accept the dissembling of a fictitious group called “LGBT Veterans for Equality” which apparently only has one member. This is not about celebrating Irish heritage or military service, but an obvious ploy to pervert the celebration of Lá Fhéile Pádraig into a political soapbox with a captive audience.
The Allied War Veterans are right to insist that the parade should remain a celebration of Irish heritage, military service, and the Catholic faith. This is neither pro-gay nor anti-gay, but simply an expression of the neighborhood pride of the Irish community in South Boston. The public square is a free and open forum for competing ideas. Everybody has a chance to speak his mind, not to force others to speak on his behalf like some kind of ventriloquist’s dummy.
The gay rights advocates have turned freedom of expression upside-down. The Boston Globe coverage of this story includes a disturbing quote from a lobbyist from the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, “I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls from people sayings it’s offensive, it’s untenable, it’s analogous to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” Maybe it is offensive to those who are looking for a fight, but a privately organized parade is not silencing those who are critical of it. To the contrary, the message of LGBT advocates is being broadcast loud and clear in every corner of this country. It is impossible to escape it.
Without fail, the word “bigot” will fly from the lips of gay rights advocates mixed with rage and spittle for all who disagree with their cause. It is reminiscent of the taunts of a playground bully, “Yeah, well you’re a mega-bigot! So there!” It can go back and forth like this with escalating variations of this tu quoque fallacy limited only by human creativity and imagination, but this only feeds into the bully’s game. Rather than face the bully head on, Catholic groups are choosing to stay home this St. Patrick’s day, which is an even worse outcome.
Now the bullies know they can silence Catholics in the public square with nuisance tactics and by poisoning public expression of our faith by turning it into a battle over free speech, even on questions of settled law. Such battles are costly, which is exactly why we need legislation like Arizona’s SB 1062 and stronger anti-SLAPP laws to at least give us a fighting chance to exercise our religious freedom without constant provocations and incessant bullying.