For the first time in twenty years, the mayor of New York City won't march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday he'll sit out the parade because its organizers exclude openly gay participants.
"No, I am not planning on marching in the parade,” de Blasio told reporters at City Hall, according to The Daily News. “I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city, but I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”
New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade Inc., the group that organizes the event, allows gay participants to march in the Fifth Avenue procession, but does not allow them to identify openly as gay.
De Blasio's decision comes as a breath of fresh air to New York City lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates, who've long protested the event. Former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani both opted to march in the parade.
"The NYC St. Patrick's Day parade, once a celebration of Irish New York, is now a 'solemn procession' of the religious right," a group called the Irish Queers wrote on its website in 2012. "It was redesigned so that anti-gay bigots could parade using the church's special right to discriminate. The parade officially sends an 'anti-gay message' -- and the NYPD is its biggest participant."
De Blasio also said Tuesday that he won't bar uniformed city officials from marching in the parade.
“I believe that uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to," he said. "And I respect that right.”
In years past, many politicians have decided not to march in the parade. Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, herself a lesbian of Irish descent, always celebrated the holiday elsewhere. In 2011, the Irish Foreign Minister condemned the parade, and the President of Ireland declined an invitation to be Grand Marshal.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade is still sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. It is now sponsored by New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade Inc.