NEW YORK, September 30, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - The organizers of New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade have announced the approval of another "gay rights" group to participate in next year's march through Manhattan.
The group, known as the Lavender and Green Alliance, is an LBGT activist organization that claims to celebrate "Irish LGBT culture." Following a vote Tuesday by the parade's board of directors, an invitation was extended to the group to take part in the 2016 festivities.
This marks the first time in the parade's 253-year history that an independent homosexual group has been allowed to march in the parade under its own banner. Last year's inclusion of gay alliance OUT@NBCUniversal, which caused a firestorm of controversy, was the first time a specifically LGBT group took part in the parade, although the group marched as part of the NBC contingent and not as its own entity.
"The decision to invite an Irish LGBT organization ... sends a positive message across the Irish Cultural landscape," said the group's founder Brendan Fay in a statement released Tuesday. "As LGBT Irish Americans we thank John Lahey [vice-chairman of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee] and the members of the Board for this historic decision which reflects the feelings of most Irish and Irish Americans."
Fay is well known throughout New York City as a human rights activist and filmmaker; he founded the Lavender and Green Alliance in 1994, and for years has actively protested the exclusion of gay groups from the annual celebration of Irish heritage. He also received a Master of Arts in theology from St. John's University — a Catholic school — and taught in New York Catholic high schools for five years.
"Everybody knows it's been such a long road getting here," he stated, alleging that he and other homosexuals of Irish descent "are transformed from being cultural outsiders to becoming insiders in [their] own Irish community."
Parade vice chairman John Lahey asserted that next year's parade will be "a special opportunity for renewed commitment to Irish values and traditions, and the Irish role in the 21st Century."
Lahey was promoted to vice chairman following this summer's ousting of long-time chairman John Dunleavy, who fought hard against gay groups that sought to march in the parade. Lahey was reportedly highly influential in allowing OUT@NBCUniversal to participate in this year's parade.
The long-standing rule held that gay people were welcome to march, but that banners and signs promoting their sexual identities would detract from the point of the parade — the celebration of Irish heritage — and were therefore forbidden.
Such standards sparked indignation in recent years from several people and organizations, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (who has boycotted the parade during his two years in office) and NBC, who insisted the parade include a gay organization in exchange for sponsorship.
The ban was lifted in late 2014, with OUT@NBCUniversal making its debut the following March.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan served as grand marshal for the 2014 parade, despite considerable backlash from faithful Catholics.
"I have no trouble with the decision at all," the cardinal said at a press conference, referring to the inclusion of Out@NBC Universal. "I think the decision is a wise one."
Cardinal Dolan was approached by ChurchMilitant.com earlier this year at the St. Patrick's Day parade and questioned about the scandal of his participation. After Cdl. Dolan laughed off the question with a short response — "Come on in! We'd love to have ya'!" — the ChurchMilitant.com crew were roughed up and physically forced out of the press scrum under Cdl. Dolan's orders.
Watch ChurchMilitant.com's Special Report on the 2015 New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade below: