New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that he will not be participating in the city's historic St. Patrick's Day parade in March because of its policy prohibiting LGBT groups from carrying pro-gay banners. His decision has struck the ire of some public figures in the city who argue the politician is opting out of an important and historical tradition.
De Blasio, who was elected to his post in November 2013, is the first NYC mayor in 20 years to not participate in the famous march down Fifth Avenue that is considered to be the largest St. Patrick's Day celebration in the nation. When de Blasio served as public advocate for the city, he participated in an alternative St. Patrick's Day parade in Queens that allowed LGBT participants to carry signs.
"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city," de Blasio said at a press conference earlier this week, adding, "But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade."
The parade has had a longstanding policy that prohibits members of the LGBT community from carrying pro-gay signs during the parade procession. The parade is run by a private group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who argue that the parade's Roman Catholic roots date back to the colonial era when the parade first began in 1762, and therefore blatant expression of gay pride does not fall in line with the parade's historic origins.
Bill Donohue, president of the city's Catholic League, told media outlets he is "delighted" by de Blasio's decision to not participate in the parade. The mayor has previously said he was raised Catholic but currently does not belong to a church.
"Personally, I am delighted," Donohue said, according to Breitbart. "I lead the Catholic League contingent every year, and I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics."
The last mayor to boycott the annual celebration was David Dinkins in 1993.
Controversy over the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade has continued for several years, but judges have previously ruled that the Ancient Order of Hibernians, as a private group, has the First Amendment right to pick and choose who may and may not participate in their annual celebration.
Organizers for the parade have reiterated that members of the LGBT community are allowed to participate in the parade, but they cannot identify themselves by their sexual orientation.
New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) said in a statement he was disappointed de Blasio would choose to opt out of such an important tradition in the city. "Mayor de Blasio's decision not to march in this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade is truly unfortunate and disappointing," he said. "I am hoping Mayor de Blasio will reconsider his decision and participate in one of New York's most time-honored traditions."
At his press conference on Tuesday, de Blasio also denied the request of Public Advocate Letitia James, who argued that if gay participants cannot show their sexual orientation, city workers should also not be allowed to wear their city uniforms to the event, to take place March 17. "I believe uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right," de Blasio said.