How the Catholic League president’s gay parade stunt backfired

It would have been fun to see Catholic League President Bill Donohue march in a parade like this. Here, on June 30, 2013, a couple celebrates same-sex marriage in San Francisco's Market Street in that city's annual Gay Pride parade.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

What exactly was Bill Donohue, the cranky public face of the Catholic League and tireless critic of gay rights, trying to prove when he asked to be included in this year’s gay pride parade in New York City? That the gays would reject him? Oh please.

Here’s how his failed publicity stunt went down:

Feb. 27: During a TV interview with Raymond Arroyo, host of the Catholic talk show “The World Over,” Donohue, 66, dismisses the idea that gay people should be able to march under a gay pride banner in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“If I wanted to get into their gay pride parade with my own float with big banners saying ‘Straight is great,’ they would have a right to feel put-upon and I wouldn’t do that to them,” says Donohue, who is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.


“They just don’t want to blend in like everybody else….They don’t believe in tolerance and they don’t believe in diversity. If they want to have their own parade, fine, but don’t crash ours.”

(How doctrinaire is Donohue? He’s one of the few people I’ve heard declare the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Ireland bore no moral culpability when they gave the baby of unwed mother Philomena Lee to a wealthy American couple.)

Thursday, March 20: Donohue has a change of heart. He will try to crash the gay parade after all. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announces on its website that Donohue has sent an email asking to participate in the 44th annual NYC LGBT Pride March. He would like to carry a banner stating “Straight is Great.”

The parade organizers welcome him with open arms.

“As a fellow Irish New Yorker,” says GLAAD President and Chief Executive Sarah Kate Ellis, “I’m hoping Bill will march with me at NYC Pride. I look forward to the day when I can march openly with Bill in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and not be turned away because of who I am.”

David Studinski, the parade’s march director, also welcomes Donohue: “Straight is great – as long as there’s no hate.”

Friday, March 21: Donohue backs out.

“The purpose of my request was to see just how far they would go without forcing me to abide by their rules,” he writes on the Catholic League website. “It didn’t take long before they did.”

“Today, I informed Heritage of Pride officials that I objected to their rule requiring me to attend gay training sessions, or what they call ‘information’ sessions. ‘I don’t agree with your rule,’ I said. They responded by saying that attendance was ‘mandatory.’”

Saturday, March 22: In a story on the GLAAD website, Studinski reveals what is involved in the “gay training sessions.”

“These trainings address line-up times, check-in locations, our moment of silence, dispersal activity, NYPD safety policies, attire and vehicle/sound permits,” Studinski says. “It is imperative that group leaders know this information.”

Does it get any more gay nefarious than that?


Twitter: @robinabcarian