NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade Green-Lights Gay Groups, And It's About Time

For a city as progressive and diverse as New York, it's shocking that a homophobic ban is only being lifted now. Still, better late than never: The NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade will allow a gay group to march next year. The decision ends the centuries-old event's prohibition of gay groups from marching with identifying banners — in the past, gay participants were forced to march with other groups under their banners. Next March 17, the parade's first LGBT group, OUT@NBCUniversal, will be proudly marching with its own signage.

According to a statement made to the Associated Press, the parade committee voted unanimously to include OUT@NBCUniversal. OUT@NBCUniversal is a volunteer organization that attracts and fosters LGBT employees at NBC Universal, the company that broadcasts the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Parade spokesperson Bill O'Reilly (not to be confused with the Fox News host) said that other gay groups are welcome to apply to march.The committee stated the reasoning behind their decision, which addresses the controversy that the ban has caused in recent years.

[The] 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.
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The policy change comes after decades of protests and mounting pressure from citizens, including the city's own mayor. This past year, Mayor Bill de Blasio boycotted the 2014 parade because of its refusal to allow LGBT groups to march and carry their own banners. He was the first mayor to do so in more than 20 years after Mayor David N. Dinkins boycotted the event in 1993 because the committee barred a group of openly gay Irish-Americans from participating.

Major sponsors like Guinness also dropped out this year in protest of the ban.

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The ban's lift is a hopeful reflection of our society's shifting attitudes toward nontraditional sexual orientations and gender identities. Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the current Archbishop of New York under the Roman Catholic Church, who will serve as the grand marshal of next year's parade, has supported the move, according to O'Reilly.

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Bigotry Still Exists Elsewhere

But similar and even harsher bans still exist in other cities. In Boston, a 20-year-old ban that prohibited gays from participating altogether was finally lifted earlier this year. However, parade organizers would not budge on allowing gay groups to march openly with identifying banners, prompting the city's mayor, Martin Walsh, to boycott the event.

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While Other Cities Lead By Example

On the flip side, cities like San Francisco have shed the ban completely. Parade organizers the United Irish Societies of San Francisco enthusiastically invited the SF LGBT Pride Committee to march openly in the St. Patrick's Day Parade this past year. The rest of America, take note and follow suit!

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New York's recent lifting of the ban hopefully signals the end of such an antiquated policy.

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