A quarter-century old ban on LGBT groups will be dropped next year by organizers of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Here's how it happened.
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After pressure and persuasion from groups like GLAAD and NBC, and a boycott from iconic Irish brewer Guinness, organizers of the historic New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade today will announce their 24-year old ban on LGBT groups will end next year.
NBC reportedly threatened to refuse to air the parade next year if organizers did not allow gay groups to march under a banner of their choosing. NYC Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio also very publicly continued his personal and long-standing boycott of the parade. Since 1991, organizers have pointed to religion as their reason for refusing to allow gay organizations to be recognized during the oldest and largest St. Patrick's Day parade.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan will also be announced as the parade's Grand Marshal today, giving the event a boost it needs, and reinforcing organizers' strong religious affiliation.
The Irish Voice, which broke the news overnight, reports that a "gay group of employees from NBC will march in next year’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade behind their own banner."
In an historic move aimed at defusing the storm that erupted this year over the exclusion of gay banners in the march, the addition of a banner identifying gay NBC staffers is a compromise forged at the insistence of several New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee members, including Dr. John Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and Francis X. Comerford, chief revenue officer for NBC-owned TV stations.
NBC, the long-time broadcast home of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, was prepared to drop its coverage unless a compromise that resulted in the inclusion of a gay group was brokered.
The withdrawal of parade sponsorship last year by Guinness was also a huge factor in bringing about the change, according to a former grand marshal.
"Once an iconic company like Guinness showed it was standing up pretty much everyone else had to follow," said the source, who revealed that Guinness had met with parade figures on several occasions since to help seek a compromise.
This year, Guinness and Heineken pulled their sponsorships from the parade, decimating the organizers financially. In return, Catholic League president Bill Donohue started a miserably failed boycott of Guinness. Ford Motor Company was assailed for maintaining its sponsorship.
Image by The All-Nite Images via Flickr