LGBT group to march in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade

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Organizers of the world's largest St. Patrick's Day parade will lift a ban and allow a gay group to march under its banner in the New York City event in 2015.

The announcement comes in a year that saw the boycott of the parade in Manhattan grow to include Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Guinness beer also dropped its sponsorship in March.

The Associated Press reported that the parade committee released a statement that said Out@NBCUniversal would march next St. Patrick's Day under its banner. The group is an LGBT affinity group with NBCUniversal.

An executive with NBCUniversal said the group had applied but he didn't know why parade organizers decided to lift the ban and allow the members to march under their banner.

In prior parades, organizers said LGBT groups could participate in the event but not identify as LGBT.

The parade is presented by organizers affiliated with the Catholic church. Next year, Cardinal Timothy Dolan will be the grand marshal.

“The decision by the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to open the parade to LGBT groups is an important step forward in the fight to ensure equal justice and opportunity for all New Yorkers," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "Next March, by taking the simple step of marching alongside their fellow St. Patrick’s Day celebrants, the members of OUT@NBCUniversal will be sending a powerful message. I congratulate the organizers of the parade for taking a strong first step forward in the fight for justice and equality. I also want to applaud OUT@NBCUniversal for standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers.  I look forward to next year’s parade, which will serve as the latest example of New York leading the way in equality.”

At the Human Rights Campaign, Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Foundation's religion and faith program, said, “We are pleased that the changes proposed by the parade committee will finally make it possible for LGBT Americans — including Irish Catholic LGBT Americans — to officially march under their own banners. The discriminatory ban has been shameful, particularly in the very city where the LGBT rights movement got its start 45 years ago at the Stonewall Inn.”

She added, “Hopefully, today’s developments will lead to full inclusion of LGBT groups in the New York parade, and encourage parade organizers in other cities like Boston to follow suit and end their discrimination."

Meanwhile, at the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York's statewide LGBT civil rights group, there was disappointment. The executive director Nathan M. Schaefer called the decision "disappointing and self-serving. While this development is long overdue, inviting one group to march at the exclusion of all others and continuing to refer to our vibrant community as 'gay' when it is in fact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, is a far stretch from the full inclusion we deserve."

He continued, "For more than 20 years, the LGBT and allied community have been calling for the organizers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade to allow LGBT people to celebrate both their Irish and LGBT pride by welcoming and including LGBT groups among its participants. We commended Mayor de Blasio, the New York City Council and sponsors like Guinness for standing with our community by refusing to march or participate in this year’s parade, which set the stage for the organizers to rethink their discriminatory practices and to make this initial step in the right direction. The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade stand alone in its continued exclusion of LGBT participants while business and political leaders stand on the side of LGBT equality and inclusion."

Schaefer called on "all leaders, community members and allies to demand that the organizers go even further. We call on them to take a bolder stand for inclusion by welcoming other groups that truly represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Irish Americans to march in 2015.

"New York is known for its diversity and inclusive spirit. Discrimination against LGBT people in New York City is illegal, and we're proud to host the country's largest LGBT pride parade down the very same street, in fact, on which we're denied participation each March. We must continue the momentum from this small step in the right direction and call for full equality not tomorrow, but today.”