LGBT groups are marching in New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade today – after a historic ban was lifted.

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, Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio has shunned the parade every year since his election– and the event has also faced a large commercial boycott and protests over the exclusion of LGBT groups.

However, after the policy was slowly phased out, this year LGBT groups will be able to march – with both the Irish Queers and the Lavender and Green Alliance able to finally march under their own banner.

Crowds lined the streets this morning for the annual event, with Mayor de Blasio also taking part.

He said: “The St Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride.

“Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

Parade chair John Lahey said: “This will be the most inclusive parade in the 255-year history of the parade.

“And really I think it will be the most unifying parade in the past 25 years.”

However, some of the hardline Catholic groups who previously supported the parade have declined to attend this year due to the new policy.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said he would not be attending, adding: “It’s contemptible.”