Gay Group to March in NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The organizers of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade have announced that, for the first time in the parade’s 253-year history, it will allow LGBT organizations to march under their own banner.
The organization released a statement citing that their “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics.”
The statement said the parade was “remaining loyal to church teachings,” and spokesman Bill O’Reilly said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is to be the parade’s grand marshal next year, was “very supportive” of the change.
Dolan said last year he supported the participation of gay people.
“I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade,” he said. “And I’m glad they are.”
“It’s about time,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Discrimination has no place on America’s streets, least of all on Fifth Avenue. As an Irish-Catholic American, I look forward to a fully inclusive St. Patrick’s Day Parade that I can share with my wife and children, just as my own parents shared with me. Until then, parade organizers must be held accountable to ending this ban once and for all.”
According to their website, “…the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is our country’s oldest and proudest Irish tradition, marching for the first time more than 250 years ago, on March 17, 1762 –  years before the Declaration of Independence.”
Think Progress reported Wednesday:
Mayor de Blasio’s gesture reflects a long history of protest over the ban. Back in 1991, Mayor David Dinkins refused to lead the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, choosing to instead march with a group of LGBT Irish people. The parade had attempted to ban them, but Dinkins . The group was booed the entire time, and Dinkins even had two beer cans thrown at him. He compared it to “marching in Birmingham, Alabama,” but said, “Every time I hear someone boo, it strengthens my resolve that it was the right thing to do.”
Not everyone is content with Wednesday’s news.
The group Irish Queers said, “Irish Queers – along with the scores of LGBT individuals, groups, and allies who have fought since 1991 for a parade that includes the whole Irish community – is learning about the change in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade at the same time as the rest of New York City and the Irish community. We welcome this cracking of the veneer of hate, but so far Irish LGBT groups are still not able to march in our community’s parades. The fight continues.”
In 2015, [email protected], an employee LGBT organization for NBCUniversal employees, will be allowed to march. Organizers say that other LGBT organizations can apply to march in future years. NBC has broadcast the parade for the past several years.
Irish Queers added, “This is a deal that was made behind closed doors between parade organizers and one of their last remaining sponsors, NBC. It allows NBC’s gay employees to march, but embarrassingly has not ended the exclusion of Irish LGBT groups. The parade organizers have said, astoundingly, that we ‘can apply’ in years to come.”
Earlier this year, GLAAD called on the parade’s sponsors to reconsider their support of the parade, which previously prohibited LGBT families and organizations from participating. Following GLAAD’s outreach, Heineken and Guinness both dropped sponsorship of the parade due to the discriminatory ban. Additionally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march in the parade, citing the discriminatory practice.
Irish Queers concluded, “We welcome this small victory, but our call remains the same – the parade must be open to Irish LGBT groups, not ‘in subsequent years’ but now. (We remember too well how parade organizers used fake waiting lists to bury our applications before). The Irish community in Ireland and abroad is far more progressive than the parade committee, having abandoned the secretive power-mongering of the days when the Catholic Church held sway over politics. We still hope NYC will catch up. This has been a long, long journey and struggle. It is time for Irish LGBT people, marching under our own banner, to take our rightful place in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
The next New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on March 17, 2015.