A judge refused Wednesday to order the city to let a gay organization hold its own St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Irish-American gays said they would march anyway to protest their exclusion from the traditional parade down Fifth Avenue.
U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan said two Fifth Avenue marches on Friday would strain city services.
The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, known as ILGO, immediately filed an appeal but it was unclear if an appeals court would rule before the parade.
The group has held protest marches in each of the past three years. In 1992, the police did not interfere; in 1993, more than 200 marchers were arrested; last year, 102 were arrested. All the charges were later dismissed.
Organization spokeswoman Anne Maguire said the group’s members would march up Fifth Avenue on Friday several hours before the traditional parade begins on the same avenue.
The judge said the city’s “interest in preserving the public order outweighs any hardship” that the group might experience from having its application for a parade permit turned down.
“There is no question that ILGO has a First Amendment right to proclaim its message of pride in its Irish cultural heritage and in its homosexuality,” the judge wrote. “But this right is not absolute.
“First Amendment rights are subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions to further significant government interests.”
Police Chief Louis Anemone hinted that police might arrest protesters. “The law will be enforced on St. Patrick’s Day as it is on any other day,” he said.
Keenan suggested that the group hold a parade on another date to avoid the conflict, but Maguire said that wouldn’t do.