THE world’s largest St Patrick’s Day parade has announced it will remove the ban on openly-gay groups from marching after an outcry over this year’s festival which saw New York’s Mayor boycott the event and Irish beer brand Guinness pull its sponsorship.
In March, both New York and Boston’s St Patrick’s Day were mired in controversy after applications by gay groups to march were rejected.
In 1995, the US Supreme Court ruled it was the Boston organiser’s constitutional right to decide who they would allow to march.
A similar ban also occurred in New York where the parade, which celebrates Irish culture and history, regularly attracts one million spectators.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to attend the parade, saying: “I simply disagree with the organisers in their exclusion of some individuals in this city.”
This week, New York’s parade committee said LGBTI employee support group, OUT@NBCUniversal, would be allowed to march next year, reported the Associated Press. NBC is the US TV station that broadcasts the parade.
New York St Patrick’s Day Parade spokesman Bill O’Reilly said other gay groups can apply to march in future years.
“Organisers have diligently worked to keep politics — of any kind — out of the parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event. Paradoxically, that ended up politicising the parade,” he said in a statement.
The committee said its “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics”.
While LGBTI people were free to march, they were not be able to identify themselves as such despite almost every other marching group being allowed to carry banners and placards.
“It’s about time,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the head of US LGBTI lobby group’s GLAAD.
“Discrimination has no place on America’s streets.
“As an Irish-Catholic American, I look forward to a fully inclusive St Patrick’s Day parade that I can share with my wife and children, just as my own parents shared with me. Until then, parade organisers must be held accountable to ending this ban once and for all.”
Talking in March to the Star Observer, the Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day Parade president John Roper said US organisers needed to be more inclusive.
“Discriminating against any group on the basis of their sexual orientation has no place in a modern society,” he said.
“The New York and Boston parades should take a leaf out of Sydney’s book. It’s time they were brought dragging and screaming into the 21st century.”