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IRISH LESBIAN & GAY ORG. v. NEW YORK STATE BD. OF

March 16, 1992

IRISH LESBIAN AND GAY ORGANIZATION, Plaintiff, against NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS, NEW YORK COUNTY BOARD OF ANCIENT ORDER OF HIBERNIANS, AND THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

Leval


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PIERRE N. LEVAL

OPINION AND ORDER

PIERRE N. LEVAL, U.S.D.J.

 This is an action brought by the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization ("ILGO") against the organizers of New York City's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. ILGO alleges that the New York State and the New York County Boards of the Ancient Order of Hibernians ("AOH") have violated the plaintiff's First Amendment free speech rights under the Constitution by failing to grant ILGO's application to march under its banner as an affiliated unit in the 1992 parade. It is apparently undisputed that the individual members of ILGO are free to march in the parade as guests of any affiliated participating unit. Under such circumstances, however, the parade rules would forbid them from carrying signs or banners, as only very limited categories of signs are permitted in the parade, consisting primarily of the flags of Ireland, the United States, and the banners of the recognized affiliated marching units. ILGO moves for a preliminary injunction ordering the Hibernians to allow ILGO to march in the parade on March 17, 1992, under their banner as an affiliated unit.

 The controversy began in October 1990 when ILGO applied to the Parade Committee, appointed by the AOH County Board, for permission to march as an affiliated unit in the 1991 parade. It appears that access to participate in the parade is in most cases granted only to organizations, rather than to individuals, and that organizations which are granted affiliation may then invite individual participants to march in their unit. By letter dated January 25, 1991, ILGO's request was denied. ILGO was advised that there was a waiting list of applicant organizations and that ILGO's application would take its place as a new request at the bottom of the list. The parade is so large and time-consuming that it is difficult to get it completed before dark. For this reason, the organizers limit the number of units permitted to participate. The organizers maintain a waiting list of applications in order of receipt. This waiting list at present includes nearly 60 organizations whose applications date back to December 1987. ILGO is approximately 40th on the list.

 Shortly before the parade in 1991, Mayor David N. Dinkins undertook to negotiate a settlement that would provide for ILGO's inclusion in the parade. The Mayor proposed that the parade permit would extend the parade for an hour and that small representative groups from each of the organizations on the waiting list would be included. The Mayor also offered to provide volunteers and funding to help run the parade on this basis. The Parade Committee rejected the Mayor's offer. Eventually a compromise was reached under which the ILGO members were invited to march with Manhattan Division 7 of the A.O.H.

 There is controversy over what happened at the 1991 parade. Witnesses for ILGO testified that when the ILGO participants reached the reviewing stand at 5th Avenue and 67th Street, members of the review committee in the grandstand turned their backs in a gesture of insult. Witnesses on behalf of the Hibernians testified that ILGO participants engaged in insulting, anti-Catholic and provocative conduct both in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral and in front of the reviewing stand at 67th Street. The Parade Committee received numerous complaints about the conduct of the ILGO members.

 [EDITOR'S NOTE: TEXT WITHIN THESE SYMBOLS [O>
 In the fall of 1991, ILGO wrote to the Chairman of the Parade Credentials Committee to verify that ILGO's application was still on file. The letter requested information "on the status of our application." ILGO received no reply. On December 4, 1991, ILGO wrote again. No reply was issued. The Mayor once again undertook efforts to secure ILGO's admission to the parade. [O>under the Mayor's auspices.

 On January 21, 1992, the Hibernian National and State Boards issued a joint statement asserting that

 [The organizers of the parade] are in full agreement, of one mind of one heart and of one determination . . . that no organization or organizations are allowed to use New York City's 231st Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, 1992 as a vehicle to publicly insult any person or group watching or reviewing the parade.

 The outrageous behavior and conduct of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), and its several well known, non-Irish support groups, on Fifth Avenue and particularly in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral and at the Parade Reviewing Stand, during the 1991 Parade, mandated that ILGO not be permitted to participate in the 1992 Parade.

 The statement concluded that the Ancient Order of Hibernians "is and has been for the past 156 years, steadfastly committed to one of its main founding purposes: to uphold, defend and protect the Roman Catholic Church, its priests and bishops, its teachings and tenets." A release issued by the Parade Chairman to the Irish Echo stated that "no group that has a position contrary to the teachings of our Catholic faith has a place in our Parade."

 On January 23, 1992, the New York City Human Rights Commission issued a complaint against the parade organizers charging violation of the Administrative Code of the City of New York by unlawful discrimination against ILGO on the basis of sexual orientation. ILGO intervened in the proceedings of the Human Rights Commission and a hearing was scheduled. On March 2, 1992, fifteen days before the parade, ILGO filed this action.

 On March 10, counsel met with the court and agreed that, in view of the lack of time, the evidence to be offered on this preliminary injunction motion would consist of portions of the transcript taken at the City Human Rights Commission hearing plus whatever affidavits were appended to the parties' moving and opposing papers. Submissions were completed by 6:30 p.m. on ...


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