New York St Patrick’s Day Parade lifts ban on gay marchers

Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to participate in 2014 parade because of people’s exclusion

Gay Rights supporters protest against the exclusion of the gay community during the 252nd annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, March 2014. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA

Gay Rights supporters protest against the exclusion of the gay community during the 252nd annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, March 2014. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA

Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 14:37

The organisers of the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade, the largest in the world, are lifting a ban prohibiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups from marching with banners and signs openly identifying themselves.

The ban was ended following mounting political pressure after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march earlier this year and Guinness dropped its sponsorship of the event over the exclusion of gay groups marching with their own banners.

The parade committee said that a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group at US television station NBC, known as OUT@NBCUniversal, would be allowed to march in next year’s Fifth Avenue parade in Manhattan under their banner.

NBC, which broadcasts the parade every year, threatened to end its coverage of the event over the prohibition of openly gay marchers.

The lifting of the ban, first reported by US-based news website Irish Central, is said to have been encouraged by pressure from sponsors who wanted the parade to be more inclusive and following contacts between Guinness and the organisers.

A spokesman for the organising committee said that other gay groups could apply to march in the parade in future.

“Organisers have diligently worked to keep politics, of any kind, out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event. Paradoxically, that ended up politicising the parade,” the committee said in a statement released to the Associated Press.

The grand marshal of next year’s parade, the 254th parade, is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York who last year supported the participation of gay marchers. He will be announced as the grand marshal at an event in New York today. His involvement was seen as crucial to the compromise over the inclusion of openly gay groups being reached with the parade’s organisers.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was criticised for marching in this year’s Manhattan parade in contrast with the decision of Mr de Blasio not to participate and in the face of opposition from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups.

Mr Kenny said at the time that many participants were also members of the gay community and he noted that the Government had sent a representative to the gay St Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, New York.

New York police commissioner Bill Bratton marched in the parade with a group of uniformed police officers despite gay activists calling for the officers not to participate in uniform while the gay ban remained in place.

The parade began in 1762 and attracts hundred of thousands of spectators and marchers in the biggest and one of the oldest Irish-American celebrations of St Patrick’s Day in the US.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh skipped the city’s main parade over the exclusion of gay groups after failing to broker a compromise with the organisers.