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Gay rights groups scoff at NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade decision

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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In this March 17, 2006 file photo, members of the Irish-American gay community protest in New York against the exclusion of gay groups from marching in New York City's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Organizers of the world's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade say they're ending the ban and will allow a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time in 2015.Dima Gavrysh, AP

In this March 17, 2006 file photo, members of the Irish-American gay community protest in New York against the exclusion of gay groups from marching in New York City’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Organizers of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade say they’re ending the ban and will allow a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time in 2015.

The inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal came in the midst of major triumphs for gays and supporters in court rulings on same-sex marriage. When a federal judge on Wednesday upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriages, it was the first loss for gay marriage supporters after more than 20 consecutive rulings overturning bans in other states.

And it came after Pope Francis set the stage for a radical shift in tone about Roman Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality when he said “Who am I to judge?” about the sexual orientation of priests.

Parade organizers said they were “remaining loyal to church teachings,” and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, next year’s grand marshal, issued a statement Wednesday saying the committee “continues to have my confidence and support.”

The exclusion of gay groups prompted first-term Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to refuse to march in the 2014 parade, and Guinness and Heineken withdrew their sponsorships.

De Blasio said Wednesday that the inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal was “a step forward,” but he would not commit to next year’s parade until he knows more.

Guinness’ parent company said, “We are pleased to see that the various parties are making progress on this issue.” It said it was open to talking with the organizers about supporting the 2015 parade.

NBC, whose local affiliate has been televising the parade since the 1990s, would not confirm reports that it had threatened to drop coverage over the issue of gay participation. But it said NBC executive Francis Comerford, a member of the parade committee, helped with the agreement to include OUT@NBCUniversal.

Whether it was the mayor or the pope or the people at Guinness who prompted the decision, gay groups took some satisfaction in their role even if it didn’t produce everything they wanted.

“This was decades’ worth of work,” said Ellis, of GLAAD. “The LGBT organizations are the ones that put pressure on the corporations that were sponsoring the parade, and when they withdrew it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

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