The world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is months away, but history will be made when participants of the parade march up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on March 17. According to a report by the Associated Press Wednesday, organizers of the parade have lifted a ban and allowing a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time.
The parade previously prohibited identified LGBT groups from participating in the parade. The ban drew controversy last year as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to participate in the parade until all groups were allowed to march. Sponsors like Guinness beer also made statements by dropping sponsorship.
In a statement made available to The Associated Press, organizers said they have already chosen the group that will be participating for the first time under an identified banner. The group that was chosen is OUT@NBCUniversal, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group at the company that broadcasts the parade.
Although it is unclear as to how the group was chosen, other gay groups will be allowed to apply in future years according to spokesman Bill O’Reilly. In previous years, gays were free to march in the parade but only with other groups and not under banners that clearly identified them as gay. This policy came under much scrutiny and raised arguments on both sides of the issue.
As a result, the committee said in the statement that its “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics.” They stated that they have made this change while “remaining loyal to church teachings.” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who has been selected as the grand marshal for the parade, also supports the change.