Metro Weekly

NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade lifts ban on LGBT groups

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NBCUniversal has announced that OUT@NBCUniversal — an LGBT support group for the company’s employees — will be allowed to march in next year’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City under a banner identifying themselves as an LGBT group.

Organizers of the annual parade have drawn criticism from the public, politicians, and companies over a discriminatory ban that prevented LGBT groups from marching in the parade under a self-identifying banner. This year, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio boycotted the parade over the policy, while brewers Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams all removed sponsorship deals for any St Patrick’s Day parade that maintained a discriminatory stance against LGBT groups. “We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade,” Guinness stated at the time. “As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.”

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Additional pressure from NBCUniversal, which broadcasts the parade each year, has likely contributed to the reversal of the ban by organizers, the New York Times reports. According to Irish Voice, Ford was also threatening to remove its support from the 2015 parade should the ban on gay marchers remain. NBCUniversal’s Chief Diversity Officer, Craig Robinson, stated that the company “[welcomes] the parade committee’s decision to accept OUT@NBCUniversal’s application to march and enthusiastically embrace the gesture of inclusion.”

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The Human Rights Campaign cheered the decision, with the director of the group’s religion and faith program, Sharon Groves, stating that they are “pleased that the changes proposed by the parade committee will finally make it possible for LGBT Americans … to officially march under their own banners.” Groves noted the paradoxical nature of such a ban in a city as liberal as NYC: “The discriminatory ban has been shameful, particularly in the very city where the LGBT rights movement got its start 45 years ago at the Stonewall Inn.”

GLAAD President Sarak Kate Ellis echoed that statement, adding, “It’s about time. Discrimination has no place on America’s streets, least of all on Fifth Avenue,” continuing with, “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.”

According to a statement made available to the Associated Press, spokesman Bill O’Reilly said that the Parade will allow other gay groups to apply to march in future years. Parade organizers voted unanimously to include the NBCUniversal LGBT group, which the committee saying 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.”

The St Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on March 15, and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Image Credit: Diana Robinson / Flickr

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