It’s been ten years since the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization first attempted to join the St. Patrick’s Day Parade; nine since Mayor Dinkins marched with the group to tossed beer and catcalls; eight since ILGO lost in court to the principle that a private parade can exclude anyone it pleases. Last week, ILGO was in court again in its first jury trial. The group no longer sought to march with the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Instead, it sued the city for denying a permit to countermarch along the same route, earlier on the morning of the seventeenth. For years, ILGO members have been arrested as they protest this denial at the New York Public Library. But in court, such high emotions inevitably succumb to a numbing death by paper cut.
Nine nodding citizens were subjected to analyses of the minutest details of Manhattan traffic patterns as ILGO’s lawyers sought to prove that the city’s stated reasons for denial were pretexts. ILGO’s strongest witness appeared to be Joseph Leake, the now-retired officer formerly responsible for midtown parades, who testified that he took an early-morning stroll in the area ILGO wished to march in – and found the streets entirely clear.
Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising moment came when Manhattan South chief Allan Hoehl took the stand. Punctuating his responses with heavy sighs and long pauses, Hoehl – deputy chief when the controversy climaxed in 1993 – claimed he couldn’t remember details of the then-front-page controversy. “Do you read the papers like anyone else?” snapped Steve Rawlings, ILGO’s attorney. “I don’t know how anyone else reads them,” answered Hoehl. Confronted with an internal letter from his lieutenant stating the reasons ILGO should be refused a permit, Hoehl denied being aware of the letter, denied that the letter was a response to a forwarded memo, and even denied that the sign-off “for your information” indicated that the letter was intended for the police hierarchy. “If it was written to nobody,” asked Rawlings, “there wouldn’t be a ‘your.’ Isn’t that correct?” Hoehl concurred, then went on to deny that he was aware that Cardinal O’Connor delivered the holiday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
ILGO lost its case on February 17. But spokeswoman Anne Maguire argued that the group had still won. “People can’t talk about the march without mentioning us. No matter what, we are a part of the parade.”