NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending a two-year boycott of the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade now that it has fully dropped its longstanding ban on allowing gay and lesbian groups to march under their own banners.
De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that for the first time he will take part in the parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. He skipped the parade in 2014, when no gay groups were allowed to openly march, and he skipped again last year, when only one small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group was permitted.
“The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” de Blasio told the AP a day ahead of a planned formal announcement. “Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”
This year, more than 300 people will march under the banner of the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group that had worked for 25 years to reverse the ban and, when those efforts stalled, founded a competing parade, called St. Patrick’s For All, which marches every year in Queens and allows all groups to participate.
“Our hearts will be dancing,” said Brendan Fay, the head of the group.
Fay gave credit to de Blasio, who was the first mayor in more than 20 years to refuse to participate in the Manhattan parade, saying his boycott put pressure on the parade’s organizers to change their policies. A year ago, organizers allowed [email protected], a gay organization at NBC, which televises the festivities, to participate, but de Blasio and several other elected officials said that wasn’t enough and continued to abstain from participating in the 255-year-old march.