NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of the world's largest St. Patrick's Day parade say they're ending a ban and allowing a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time.
The prohibition on identified gay groups in the centuries-old New York parade had made participation a political issue. Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march this year, and Guinness beer dropped its sponsorship.
The parade committee, in a statement made available to The Associated Press, said today that OUT@NBCUniversal, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would be marching up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17 under an identifying banner.
Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, said the group had applied to march, but there was no immediate word on why the group was chosen.
"We welcome the parade committee's decision to accept OUT@NBCUniversal's application to march and enthusiastically embrace the gesture of inclusion," Robinson said. "Our employees, families and friends look forward to joining in this time-honored celebration of Irish culture and heritage."
OUT@NBCUniversal is described on its website as "the affinity group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at NBCUniversal." Parade directors voted unanimously to include the group, the statement said.
Other gay groups can apply to march in future years, spokesman Bill O'Reilly said.