Last week, organizers of New York’s St Patrick’s Day Parade announced that they would allow, for the first time, a gay group to march in the annual event.
The announcement came after years of lobbying and campaigning by LGBT groups, and increasing pressure from corporate sponsors of the event. High-profile sponsors, including Guinness and Heineken, had withdrawn sponsorship in recent years, while even New York mayor Bill de Blasio specifically boycotted the 2014 event over the issue.
However, the announcement has prompted disappointment among some LGBT people. Why? Because the organizers have opted to approve a corporate-sponsored group over local community and Irish heritage groups.
Organizers accepted a 2015 application from [email protected] – a group affiliated with the broadcaster that televises the event. It was reported by Irish Central that NBC had indicated that it would drop its coverage unless a compromise that resulted in the inclusion of a gay group was agreed.
In response, the groups Irish Queers, Lavender and Green Alliance, and St Pat’s for All have said that they each intend to submit applications today to take part in the 2015 Manhattan parade. The groups and their supporters plan to announce their application to take part at 9am (EST) today (9 September) in New York on the Steps of the NY Public Library, 40th Street and Fifth Avenue.
‘Last week parade organizers announced a secret deal permitting only the gay employee group of the parade’s corporate sponsor – and not any Irish LGBTQ groups – to march in the parade,’ said a statement on the Irish Queers website.
‘This is a deal that was made behind closed doors between parade organizers and one of their last remaining sponsors, NBC. It allows NBC’s gay employees to march, but embarrassingly has not ended the exclusion of Irish LGBT groups. The parade organizers have said, astoundingly, that we “can apply” in years to come… We welcome this small victory, but our call remains the same – the parade must be open to Irish LGBT groups, not “in subsequent years” but now.’
However, parade organizers have already indicated that the applications might fail, with John Lahey, vice chairman of the parade committee, telling the Irish Times that they were under pressure to limit the number of marchers in the 2015 parade and playing down the possibility of allowing another gay group to participate.
‘I won’t say that it is possible that we would consider another group… We are under pressure to shorten the parade — I would be surprised that we would.’
He denied that the decision to accept the NBC group was not due to pressure from any one group: ‘This is an issue that has been out there for many, many years and we thought that this was the right time and we got an application from who we thought was the right group.’
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