Michelangelo Signorile, the prominent journalist and broadcaster on Sirius Satellite Radio's OutQ, has claimed this week that this years Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York City may be the last one to exclude gays.
Writing in in the Huffington Post yesterday Signorile, who is the websites Gay Voices editor at large, notes with incredulity that NBC and its parent company Comcast still sell the parade's broadcast rights to the organizers who run the parade. In turn, he notes, the organizers then sell advertising to major companies here.
But worse, Signorile laments, one of NBC's top executives, a man who aids the organizers in getting those ad dollars, was chosen as this year's Grand Marshal.
'It's 2012, and in the state of New York gays and lesbians have full civil rights, including marriage equality. Moreover, gays are no longer banned in the U.S. military. But they are still banned from Fifth Avenue's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in an embarrassing throwback for everyone involved,' he writes.
Since Comcast's chairman and CEO Brian Roberts has testified before the House Judiciary Committee that his company strictly adheres to diversity in every aspect of the company's business dealings, it could be setting the stage for charges of hypocrisy from the gay community claims Signorile.
Signoile writes: '...it's debatable whether selling the broadcast rights to a parade that admittedly excludes a minority group violates the FCC's diversity rules. But it's certainly something that LGBT activists would argue, bringing a lot of attention to the issue. Comcast may not want that fight now.'
Comcast is a company that prides itself on its outreach to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, Signorile notes adding: 'It's a different time than when the Ancient Order of the Hibernians began excluding gays from the St. Patrick's Day Parade in the early '90s. Netroots activism gets things done very quickly today.'
Comcast will be vulnerable to that kind of activism precisely because it has left itself wide open to criticism by backing a parade whose ban on gays is in clear violation of its own stated principles.
'If Comcast doesn't want a battle on its hands, a battle it will ultimately lose, after much PR erosion, it will make sure that March 18, 2012 is the beginning of the end of the ban on gays in the St. Patrick's Day Parade,' Signorile concludes.