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Friday, September 20, 2019
NEW YORK, Mar 18 2016 (IPS) - This year’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue was a historic event marking the end of a 25-year ban on gays and lesbians.
The participants in the parade, described as one of the world’s largest celebrations of Irish heritage, included hundreds of gay Irish activists led by the Lavender and Green Alliance (LGA). “We too are Irish. We are your sons. We are your brothers, your sisters,” said LGA co-founder Brendan Fay—even as onlookers cheered the banner-wielding activists.
He told reporters: “When we began this struggle, I never imagined that one day I would be stepping up Fifth Avenue with my married spouse.”
The banners hailing gay pride was in marked contrast to last year’s parade where one prominent sign read: “Embraced in Ireland. Banned in New York City.” Last year, Ireland legalized same sex marriage in a nation-wide referendum.
The participation of gays and lesbians was preceded by two years of negotiations between parade organizers and local politicians. A strong push for the participation of the gay community came not only from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio but also the Consul General for Ireland Barbara Jones.
The Mayor, who had skipped the parade in previous years in solidarity with gays and lesbians, marched alongside several City officials. “For the last two decades, there’s been a blemish on this city,” he said, adding “Who are we a New Yorkers?. It is our nature to embrace and support all peoples.”
Among the participants in the parade was Christine Quinn, the first openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council. Over the years, she was arrested multiple times for protesting the ban.
The only strong opposition to the gay and lesbian march came from the Catholic League, whose president, Bill Donohue, called the parade “a disgrace”. “This crap about being inclusive… I think is sickening. I’ll never march again,” he said.
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