The New York City Council announced on Tuesday that it will boycott the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue on March 17 because gay groups are excluded from marching with their own banners.  The decision was announced by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in a press release.

Mark-Viverito has not banned individual members of the council from taking part in the march, but the use of the City Council banner will be prohibited.

“The St. Patrick’s Parade should be a time when all New Yorkers can come together and march openly as who they are – but right now that is not the case for the LGBT community,” said Mark-Viverito.

“This City Council is committed to celebrating and respecting the diversity of New York City and that is why we’ve decided to not participate in the parade. I hope the organizers will eventually realize that the parade will be better when all New Yorkers can march openly and proudly.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that he was boycotting the parade for the same reason.  At a press conference Tuesday de Blasio reiterated that he would not bar city employees, including members of the police and fire departments, from taking part in the parade while in uniform.

“I’ve spoken to this; I respect the right of city employees to make their own choices on this,” de Blasio said.

“Again, I think the current reality of city employees marching is acceptable and appropriate. And that’s – again – I think a matter of their right to free speech and free expression, so I respect that.”

By press time on Tuesday afternoon, the mayor’s press office did not return Irish Voice requests to provide a schedule of his Irish-related events leading up to St. Patrick’s Day and on the day itself.  Reports last week suggested that the mayor would not be hosting the annual St. Patrick’s morning breakfast at Gracie Mansion.

It is not known if any City Council members will take part in the march.  Several expressed agreement with Mark-Viverito’s move.

“As a member of the New York City Council and a proud Irish American, I support the efforts of my colleagues in trying to make the St. Patrick’s Day Parade representative of the diverse walks of life of all those who share and celebrate our heritage,” said Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

“This year I will be standing in unity with my fellow council members by marching in the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Queens.”

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League slammed Mark-Viverito, and said her stance represents an “obscene exercise in censorship.”

“If some contrarians sought to use the club of the law, and public pressure, to force their way into the Gay Pride Parade—insisting on banners that read, ‘Straight Is Great’— they would be run out of town. So should our intolerant mayor, Bill de Blasio, and his equally intolerant sidekick, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. There can be no compromise when it comes to our First Amendment right to freedom of religion, speech, and assembly,” Donohue added.