New York St Patrick's Day Parade to include LGBT groups for the first time
Last year, the city's mayor refused to march in the parade over the exclusion of LGBT groups
For the first time in its 200-year history, the world's biggest St Patrick's Day parade in New York will this year include a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group.
For decades, the parade’s organisers had said that people who identified as LGBT were allowed to march, but only with other groups and with non-descript banners - despite the fact most participants carry identifying signs.
Last year, the controversy surrounding the exclusion of LGBT groups reached boiling point when Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march in the parade, in solidarity with campaigners, and Guinness beer cut its sponsorship.
Committee organisers lifted the ban by unanimously voting in favour of allowing the LGBT group of broadcaster Universal, OUTNBCUniversal, to march up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on 17 March under an identifying banner.
More LGBT groups will be able to apply to march in future years, said Bill O'Reilly, a spokesman for the organisers.
The committee said in a statement that its “change of tone and expanded inclusiveness is a gesture of goodwill to the LGBT community in our continuing effort to keep the parade above politics”.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is to be the parade's grand marshal next year, was "very supportive" of the change. He said last year he supported the participation of gay people. “I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade,” he said. “And I'm glad they are.”
Read more: 10 things you didn't know about the St Patrick
15 famous people you didn't know were Irish
Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, confirmed that the group had applied to march, but said there was no immediate word on why the group was chosen.
“We welcome the parade committee's decision to accept OUTNBCUniversal's application to march and enthusiastically embrace the gesture of inclusion,” Mr Robinson said.
“Our employees, families and friends look forward to joining in this time-honoured celebration of Irish culture and heritage," he added.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the gay-rights group GLAAD, said "It's about time."
"Discrimination has no place on America's streets, least of all on Fifth Avenue.
"As an Irish-Catholic American, I look forward to a fully inclusive St Patrick's Day Parade that I can share with my wife and children, just as my own parents shared with me," she said.
A NYC police officer protester at the annual St. Patricks's Day Parade 16 March in New York in 1996 (Getty)
In the annual parade which began in 1762, participants include uniformed city workers, marching bands with bagpipes, traditional Irish dancers and politicians - drawing thousands of spectators.
The ban on LGBT groups has also been highlighted in other US cities. In Boston, the brewer of Sam Adams beer last year pulled its sponsorship because organisers exclude gay groups Irish-American mayor Martin Walsh refused to march.
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...