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Gay group to march in New York St Patrick's Day parade for the first time

But will Irish LGBT groups be included?

Protesters at last March's New York St Patrick's Day parade hold a banner reading
Protesters at last March's New York St Patrick's Day parade hold a banner reading "Boycott Homophobia."
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Updated: 8.02 pm

AT LEAST ONE group of LGBT people will, for the first time, be allowed to march in next year’s New York St Patrick’s Day parade, after mounting pressure from corporate sponsors.

A group of gay employees from NBC – the event’s long-standing TV partner – will be allowed to carry a banner in the 2015 parade, according to the Irish Voice newspaper in New York.

Organisers of the parade have drawn outrage and ridicule in recent years for their refusal to allow LGBT people to march in the parade with banners and signs declaring their identity.

A second parade, “St Pat’s For All“, was set up in 2000 as an open and inclusive alternative to the traditional one, and has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years.

Last year, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton joined NY Mayor Bill deBlasio in boycotting the controversial event, citing a lack of long hoped-for progress on including the LGBT community in the parade.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, however, went ahead with his plans to take part, saying the parade was “about our Irishness and not our sexuality.”

Now, however, parade organisers have finally bowed to pressure and increasing isolation from corporate sponsors, according to insider sources cited by the Irish Voice.

After Guinness withdrew its sponsorship of the event last year, it is understood NBC had also threatened to stop broadcasting it, unless an agreement to include LGBT people was reached.

Here’s a video giving a flavour of last March’s alternative, inclusive “St Pat’s for All” parade, including Rory O’Neill (aka Panti Bliss) having a laugh with New York Mayor Bill deBlasio:

Other gay groups can apply to march “in future years”

It was confirmed this evening that OUT@NBC Universal, a group of LGBT employees of the broadcaster, has been given permission to march in the 2015 parade.

Craig Robinson, chief diversity officer at NBC, said the company “enthusiastically embraces this gesture of inclusion,” which it is understood will also allow the families, partners and spouses of LGBT employees to take part.

It is not yet clear, however, if any other LGBT or gay rights groups, in particular Irish ones, will be allowed to march next St Patricks Day.

Parade spokesman Bill O’Reilly told the Irish Voice that other gay groups could apply to march “in future years.”

The group Irish Queers – a descendant of the now disbanded New York-based Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation, which campaigned actively for inclusion in the parade during the 1990s – issued a statement today.

We welcome this cracking of the veneer of hate, but so far Irish LGBT groups are still not able to march in our community’s parades. The fight continues.
This is a deal that was made behind closed doors between parade organizers and one of their last remaining sponsors, NBC.
It allows NBC’s gay employees to march, but embarrassingly has not ended the exclusion of Irish LGBT groups.

Read: Burton will decline invite to New York parade over LGBT ban>

New York City mayor refuses to take part in St Patrick’s Day parade>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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