Gay group set to make history in New York Saint Patrick's parade
A gay group will march under its own banner for the first time in the world's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City in March next year, organisers have said.
The prohibition on identified gay groups in the centuries-old New York parade had made participation a political issue.The city's mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march this year, and Guinness dropped its sponsorship over the ban.
In other US cities, St Patrick's Day parades have been embroiled in turmoil over the issue. In Boston earlier this year, the brewer of Sam Adams beer pulled its sponsorship because organisers exclude gay groups.
In a statement the New York parade committee, said that OUT@NBCUniversal, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would be marching up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17 under an identifying banner.
Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, said the group had applied to march, but there was no word on why the group was chosen.
"We welcome the parade committee's decision to accept OUT@NBCUniversal's application to march and enthusiastically embrace the gesture of inclusion," Robinson said.
"Our employees, families and friends look forward to joining in this time-honoured celebration of Irish culture and heritage."
OUT@NBCUniversal is described on its website as "the affinity group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at NBCUniversal".
Parade directors voted unanimously to include the group.
Other gay groups can apply to march in future years, spokesman Bill O'Reilly said.
"It's about time," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the gay-rights group GLAAD. "As an Irish-Catholic American, 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."
In the past, organisers said gays were free to march but only with other groups and not with banners identifying them as gay.
Most marching units in the parade carry identifying banners. There are about 320 units in next year's parade, the committee said.
The committee said 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".