Hurley v. GLIB
Growing up, David O’Connor and Cathleen Finn saw St. Patrick’s Day as a celebration of their Irish heritage. But even though both are 100% Irish, as members of the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) in the early 1990s, it took a court order for them to march in South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Their fight for inclusion in the parade would lead to a three-year legal battle that would take GLIB to the United States Supreme Court in GLAD’s case, Hurley v. the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston
GLIB in 1992 registered to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, an event co-sponsored by the City of Boston and the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council. The Veterans’ Council-headed by self-named Korean War veteran John “Wacko” Hurley-rejected the group’s registration on the grounds that GLIB posed a “safety concern.”
GLIB had proposed to do nothing more than march with a banner bearing the organization’s name.
The group in 1992 and 1993 won court orders to march. Then, rather than let GLIB march in 1994, the Veterans Council canceled the parade outright.
By the time the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in early 1995, GLAD and GLIB had won in court seven consecutive times. Each time a Massachusetts court affirmed the right of LGB Irish-Americans to participate in a public, civic event celebrating their heritage.
But-reframing GLIB’s fight against discrimination as a First Amendment issue-the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1995 reversed the Massachusetts courts.
Despite the loss, the case itself marked significant progress for LGB people. GLAD attorney John Ward was the first openly gay attorney to argue at the Supreme Court. The written decision was respectful in tone, and the Court acknowledged that coming out and being out are expressive acts.
And GLIB’s fight added to the discussion about identity and community, about being who you are and being included. About being 100% Irish and being 100% gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
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