Gay activists: Include us in St. Patrick's parade

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Gay activists who have been pushing to join New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade since the 1990s called on organizers Tuesday to include them, not just a group for gay NBC employees.

Members of a group called Irish Queers held a news conference to announce that they were applying for a spot in the 2015 event, the nation's biggest and oldest St. Patrick's Day parade. Then they dropped their application into a mailbox.

"We want to march up Fifth Avenue as an Irish diaspora that has finally joined Ireland in rejecting religion-fueled bigotry," Emmaia Gelman said. "Let Irish queer groups finally take our place in this year's parade."

The St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee said last week that OUT@NBCUniversal, an LGBT resource group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would march in next year's parade.

In the past, organizers said gays were free to march but only with other groups and not with banners identifying them as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The ban has kept elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, from marching. It also led Guinness and Heineken to pull out of the 2014 parade as sponsors.

Parade organizers said including the NBC group was meant as a "gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics."

Asked if other gay groups would be allowed to march, parade spokesman Bill O'Reilly said next year's parade was full and other groups were free to apply for the 2016 parade.

Irish Queers member Gaby Cryan derided the invitation to the NBC group as "a token gesture." Gelman said the group should refuse to march until other LGBT groups can march under their own banners.

An NBCUniversal spokeswoman declined to comment.