The Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio has ended his boycott of the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade, after gay groups were welcomed for the first time.
The annual event – which attracts over a million tourists each year – has maintained a long-held ban on gay groups, due to the influence of anti-LGBT Catholic groups.
Due to the anti-gay policy, Bill de Blasio has shunned the parade every year since his election in 2014 – and the event has also faced a large commercial boycott and protests over the exclusion of LGBT groups.
However, the policy has been slowly phased out – with sponsor-affiliated LGBT group Out@NBCUniversal permitted to march in 2015 without any Pride flags as a ‘middle-ground’ compromise.
In 2016, however, Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance will finally march under their own banner for their first time – likely marking a definitive end of the outright ban.
Following the news that an LGBT contingency will be permitted, Mayor de Blasio has reportedly confirmed he will march in the parade next month, shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBT marchers.
According to Irish Central, the Mayor “will likely march up Fifth Avenue twice on March 17” – once at the front of the parade, likely alongside the police department, before doubling back to march again with the Lavender and Green Alliance.
The New York City Council has also apparently ended its boycott of the event following the removal of the anti-LGBT policy, with a large contingent expected to march under the city’s banner for the first time since 2013.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito had previously shunned the event alongside Mayor de Blasio, in solidarity with LGBT marchers.
Brendan Fay of the Lavender and Green Alliance said: “We have had tremendous interest from everyone since it was announced last year that we would be marching on Fifth Avenue.”
He added that former Mayor David Dinkins, who vocally called for the ban to be lifted while in office until 1993, had also been invited to march. Mr Dinkins is 88.