Activists Renew Call for St. Pat’s Boycott

City Councilmember Daniel Dromm at the February 17 press conference, flanked by Matthew McMorrow of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Councilmember Rosie Mendez. | DONNA ACETO

City Councilmember Daniel Dromm at the February 17 press conference, flanked by Matthew McMorrow of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Councilmember Rosie Mendez. | DONNA ACETO

While the organizers of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade have allowed an LGBT employee group from the television station that broadcasts the event to march this year, Irish gay and lesbian groups continue to call for a boycott of the parade, saying the inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal is little more than a publicity stunt meant to make it appear that the 24-year ban on Irish LGBT groups has ended.

“We’re here to continue the boycott and reject the trickery,” said Emmaia Gelman, a member of Irish Queers, at a February 17 press conference on the steps of City Hall.

Originally organized by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the parade first banned LGBT groups in 1991 when David Dinkins was mayor and John Cardinal O’Connor, a leading anti-LGBT voice, ran the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. In recent decades, the parade has been strongly identified with the archdiocese. In an unambiguous rebuke to O’Connor, Dinkins invited the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization to march with him that year — which occasioned an ugly response to the mayor and his guests from many spectators. No LGBT group has marched since then, and parades have been consistently marked by controversy over the ban. The parade’s 2015 grand marshal is Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the current head of the Archdiocese of New York.

Participation of gay employee group from parade’s broadcast sponsor derided as “trickery”

The parade is now organized by NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which last year announced with great fanfare that OUT@NBCUniversal had been accepted as a contingent in the 2015 parade. While some mainstream media played that as an end to the ban, activists who have been trying to join the parade for years saw it as a ploy to bolster support for the event, which lost two major sponsors last year over the exclusion of LGBT Irish groups.

“It is clear that last year’s decision was made to placate the sponsors,” said Rosie Mendez, a lesbian city councilmember who represents lower Manhattan, at the press conference.

NBC, which is a unit of Comcast, the cable giant, was also under fire last year for its role in broadcasting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, where LGBT Russians have been under attack by the government. The inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal was seen as little more than window dressing.

“The issue has never been allowing a gay group in the parade,” said Daniel Dromm, an out gay city councilmember who represents part of Queens, at the press event. “It has been having an Irish gay group in the parade… We are demanding an inclusive parade and we are asking other elected officials not to march.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is on a junket in Israel, released a statement that read, “Until the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is really and truly inclusive of all I will not march in it. Half measures will not suffice for a parade that should be open to everyone regardless of who they are or whom they love.”

A spokesperson for Mark-Viverito, who represents parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, told Gay City News, “She wanted to make sure the message got out even while she is away.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio did not march in the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but he has not committed to the boycott in 2015.

Also endorsing the boycott are Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the Lavender and Green Alliance, the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide LGBT lobbying group, and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a gay group.

“We will also take special note of those who will not be joining us because they don’t want to upset the cardinal,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles club.