NYC St Patrick’s Day parade drops ban on gay groups
The New York St Patrick’s Day parade will allow an LGBT contingent to march under their own banner for the first time.
The annual Catholic event – which attracts over a million tourists each year – has a long-held ban on allowing gay groups to march – but the 2014 parade faced a large commercial boycott over the exclusion of LGBT groups.
In 2015, the LGBT groups of one of the parade’s biggest sponsors, OUT@NBCUniversal, was allowed to march as part of NBC’s contingent – but other groups remained banned.
However, ahead of the 2016 event, the organisers of the parade have performed a monumental about-face, and will drop the ban entirely.
Irish LGBT group the Lavender and Green Alliance will be allowed to march in the Parade.
Brendan Fay, the group’s founder, wrote: “We celebrate the welcome! St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2016, will be a great day for hospitality and inclusion.
“The decision to invite an Irish Gay organization, The Lavender & Green Alliance/ Muintir Aerach na hÉireann, by the Board of Directors of the St Patrick’s Day Parade sends a positive message across the Irish Cultural landscape.
“As LGBT Irish Americans we thank John Lahey and the members of the Board for this historic decision which reflects the feelings of most Irish and Irish Americans.
“With the decision we cross a historic threshold and our members will proudly march up Fifth Avenue with our banner.”
Parade Board Chair John L. Lahey said: “Since 2016 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, considered the birth of Irish independence, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17 is a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions, and the Irish role in the 21st Century.
“We are working with the government of Ireland in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit.”
Irish Queers, a group that has protested the parade for over two decades, also celebrated the ruling.
They wrote in a blog post: “We are happy and relieved to announce that, after 25 years of struggle, we have won!
“The NYC St Patrick’s Day parade has dropped its bigoted ban: an Irish LGBTQ contingent will finally march with its own banner in the parade next March 17th.
“From the beginning, our demand has been for an Irish LGBTQ contingent to march behind their own banner saying who they are, like all other contingents. Today’s decision to invite the Lavender and Green Alliance does just that!
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“This is a victory for the grassroots organizing, civil disobedience, and street protest of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization and its successor, Irish Queers.
“Protests held the line year after year where politics constantly failed. It’s also a victory for our beautiful queer and Irish community of support, stretching from New York City to Ireland and beyond.”
The statement continues: “The desire to march and the protests against exclusion began as part of Irish queer people’s work to stem the homophobia-fuelled tide of AIDS deaths, to push back on the power of the church in Ireland, and to end the pretense that Irish queers are not a central part of Irish culture and politics.
“Even as other battles were won, the parade’s ironclad combination of bigotry, religion, money, and city politics made it a long holdout against justice. We are tired but happy to see the end of it.
“Our thanks: we’re thankful to the many ordinary New Yorkers who supported us over the last 25 years, as well as the many elected official who refused to march in the parade while we were left out.”
The Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio has boycotted the Parade since taking office, saying that he would not take part in the event until it is fully inclusive.