New York City mayor Bill de Blasio will not march in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, he announced Tuesday, because of the ceremony’s anti-gay traditions.
“I am not planning on marching in the parade,” Mayor de Blasio said at a City Hall press conference, the New York Daily News reported. “I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city, but I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”
According to parade planners, gay people may march in the parade but can’t display their sexual orientation in any way.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also pledged not to march down Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I have an incredibly strong trajectory of being a strong ally on issues regarding social justice and equity for the LGBTQ community, so I will definitely not march,” she said. “The mayor took a very bold step and decision in deciding not to march.”
Another official, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, D-Queens, who is openly gay, cheered de Blasio’s “strong stand against discrimination.” Van Bramer was arrested in 2000 for marching in the parade with a gay pride banner.
“I find it offensive that the parade takes a formal and hard line that I can’t participate,” Van Bramer said. “That literally shuts out huge portions of our city.”
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, wrote sarcastically on the organization’s website that he was “delighted” that the mayor was not participating if he didn’t want to “be associated with Irish Catholics.”
De Blasio’s predecessors, Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani, joined the parade route every year. The Daily News reports that Mayor David Dinkins was the last to refuse to march, also due to the gay issue, in 1993.
New York LGBTQ allies and elected officials wrote an open letter to the mayor asking him to ban city employees from marching in the parade in solidarity with gay rights.
But de Blasio refused to go that far.
“Uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right,” he said during Tuesday’s press conference.
One million people are expected to attend the Guinness-fueled procession through the city streets on March 17.