The Irish Voice has learned that concerted efforts are underway behind the scenes between City Hall and the St. Patrick’s Day parade committee officials to finally resolve the controversial standoff and allow a group of Irish LGBT leaders to march under their own banner before the March 17 deadline.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cardinal Timothy Dolan must use their leadership to resolve the 25-year standoff between the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade committee and Irish gay groups this year, says community activist Brendan Fay.
“We have a month to go,” Fay told the Irish Voice. “The doors are still open and 2015 could be a celebration we can all be proud of.”
“I have been meeting with people in the mayor’s office and people at the City Council like Elizabeth Crowley, Corey Johnson and Jimmy Van Bramer,” Fay, who has applied to march in the parade under the Lavender and Green Alliance banner, told the Irish Voice.
“With the line of march yet to be published there is still time for both sides to reach an agreement. We at Lavender and Green Alliance have been working for decades for an inclusive Irish parade. My motto is 'It’s always a yes until it’s a no.'”
Fay told the Irish Voice he was directing his appeal to Cardinal Dolan, the grand marshal of this year’s march up Fifth Avenue, and to parade committee members like Dr. John Lahey, John Dunleavy and board members like Frank Comerford at NBC.
It’s understood that city leaders have strongly suggested to the parade committee that a resolution would benefit both the parade itself and the city.
Last September the committee announced the inclusion of a gay group for the first time ever in the line of march, OUT@NBCUniversal, the employee group belonging to NBC, which broadcasts the parade each year. Fay, the most prominent and committed Irish LGBT activist, expressed disappointment that an Irish group wasn’t invited to march.
The Irish Voice reported last week that de Blasio is set not to march in this year’s parade. The mayor called the report “premature” but did not deny it, and said the parade must be “inclusive.” His decision not to march will stand, sources say, unless a last-minute compromise on the inclusion of an Irish LGBT presence can be reached.
Though City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s press secretary refused to comment on numerous occasions on the Irish Voice’s exclusive report last week that she would decline to march, on Tuesday her office issued a statement confirming that fact.
“Until the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is really and truly inclusive of all I will not march in it,” the statement read.
“Half measures will not suffice for a parade that should be open to everyone regardless of who they are or whom they love. It is my hope that someday soon parade organizers will realize that a more inclusive parade will be a better parade and will finally allow LGBTQ groups to march under their own banners. Proud Irish New Yorkers should not be forced to hide their identities – period.”
When contacted by the Irish Voice on Tuesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s press secretary Eric Sumberg said his office would “decline comment for today.”
The New York City Council will not have a formal presence in the parade, as the Irish Voice reported last week. When contacted by the Irish Voice on Tuesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s press secretary Eric Sumberg said his office would “decline comment for today.”
Meanwhile, other prominent Irish LGBT leaders announced their decision to boycott the parade on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday.
Council Member Danny Dromm of Queens joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the Irish Queers group, and the Empire State Pride Agenda to reaffirm their boycott of the 2015 parade.
But neither Fay, who says the aim of the press conference changed between the proposal on Friday and the announcement of a boycott this week, nor his Lavender and Green Alliance participated.
“I did not participate in the boycott today because I believe it is a premature message,” Fay said.
“There are conversations going on toward resolving this standoff and creating a space for inclusion. We may be there in a couple of weeks. This is a moment for reconciliation.”
But critics in the Irish Queers group say a boycott is the best path, since the changes announced have been cosmetic as opposed to substantive.
In a statement they wrote: “Last September, parade organizers and NBC revealed a backroom deal in which NBC's gay employee group would be admitted to the parade, but no Irish LGBT groups would be allowed. The ban on Irish LGBT groups remains in place.”
Despite pressure to fall in line Fay is resolute he has made the right decision to offer an outstretched hand as opposed to a boycott.
“It’s not a call for a renewal of a boycott. For me it’s more about the call for renewal of a commitment to ensuring we have an inclusive St. Patrick’s celebration,” Fay said.
“In the last couple of weeks we have seen the parade organizers change their position and welcome a pro-life group into the parade. They all of a sudden magically found room. Where there is a will and commitment there’s a way for us all.”
Asked if St. Patrick’s Day Executive Secretary Hilary Beirne’s comment to The Wall Street Journal this week that the parade committee will take the participation of LGBT groups “one step at a time” implied that the inclusion of the OUT@NBCUniversal group could be the only LGBT group to march this year, Fay was philosophical.
“We’ve been at this 25 years. How many more steps do we have to take? Now is the moment. It’s one that should belong to the Irish community and not a corporate sponsor,” he said.