First Gay Group Marches in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and like every year, it’s celebrated nationwide with green-hued parades. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the nation’s largest and, at 250 years running, the oldest. But today they made history by becoming LGBT friendly. OUT@NBCUniversal, a corporate group for gay employees of NBCUniversal, became the first gay group to march in the parade. However still unsatisfied with its level of inclusion, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council boycotted the parade for the second year in a row.
— Mark Joyella (@standupkid) March 17, 2015
Organizers of the parade banned LGBT organizations for decades from participating in the event based on Roman Catholic opposition to homosexuality. The ban did not explicitly ban LGBT members from marching, but rather prohibited them from carrying banners marking them as LGBT. Last fall, organizers announced that they would finally be lifting the ban this year in response to public protest and loss of corporate sponsors including beer giants Heineken and Guinness.
According to USA Today, NBCUniversal Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Craig Robinson issued a statement saying:
We approach the opportunity with respect for the event’s heritage, culture and tradition, as well as hope and excitement for this first step towards an increasingly inclusive era for the parade.
Cities such as Boston and Washington D.C. allowed gay groups to participate in their St. Patrick’s Day parades this year as well, but with over 300 organizations marching in NYC’s parade, some still aren’t impressed with the parade’s admittance of only one LGBT org. According to MSNBC, Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to walk again this year, opting to instead participate earlier this month in an alternative St. Patrick’s Day parade, known as the St. Pat’s for All parade. That event promotes equality and acceptance. De Blasio’s office issued a statement explaining the mayor’s decision saying:
St. Patrick’s Day parades from Boston to Dublin have opened their arms to the LGBT community. The decision by the 5th Avenue parade organizers to include one group from NBC, while a step in the right direction, is still not inclusive enough. The mayor hopes more progress can be made soon, and the parade will be more inclusive in the future, and if that happens he will be happy to participate. But until then, he will continue to decline to march.
He does have a point. One out of 300 is hardly a bastion of equality, and I’m impressed with De Blasio’s persistence in standing up for equal opportunities for all of his constituents. The Catholic Church’s views on matters like homesexuality and contraception have loosened in recent years under the leadership of Pope Francis, but the parade’s outdated lack of acceptance is not representative of that. De Blasio and others’ boycott of the parade sends a message to officials that they’ve made a nice start but they can do better still.