Barely Taking a Breath, de Blasio Says “Nyet”

Mayor Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO

Mayor Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO

Less than 24 hours after LGBT activists and their allies called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to bar uniformed city personnel from marching in the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade, they received a pretty firm no.

Asked by reporters on February 4 for his response to the activists’ letter, the mayor said, “I believe that uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right.”

In response to a follow-up question, the mayor dug in, saying, “I've said what I think, I respect the right of our city workers to march in uniform, period.” Then, replying to a question about his own intentions regarding the parade, which has for more than two decades barred participation by openly gay and lesbian groups, de Blasio said, “I am not planning on marching in the parade, I haven't in the past, in my capacity as an elected official… I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city.”

Activists responsible for putting together the sign-on letter were harshly critical of de Blasio’s quick dismissal of their request.

“The mayor has ducked and punted, saying only that he won't march himself,” read a release from the Ad Hoc Coalition Against Participation in Discriminatory Parades. “This isn't much to be celebrated: no truly progressive politician has marched since the parade banned the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from marching with its banner in 1991 and Mayor Dinkins stood alongside ILGO only to be pelted with beer cans.”

At least one leading LGBT community group had a very different reaction, celebrating the stance taken by the mayor.

“We commend Mayor de Blasio’s public refusal to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the grounds that the organizers are prohibiting participants from any outward displays of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride,” Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Nathan Schaefer said in a written statement. “As New York’s LGBT advocacy organization, we’re proud to stand behind a mayor who holds inclusivity and diversity as pillars of his leadership. Mayor de Blasio’s statement today sends a strong message to New York City and beyond that it’s not OK to exclude any one group just because of who they are, and that no entity, religious or otherwise, should discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”

Even while praising the mayor for his announcement he would not march, Schaefer signed on to the letter circulated by the Ad Hoc Coalition.

According to Emmaia Gelman, an activist involved in the Ad Hoc Coalition, that group intends to call a community meeting in the near future to plan next steps.