By Albert Lin
In what some are calling another step in the right direction for the Catholic Church in its stance on LGBT rights, the organizers of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade announced that starting in 2015, LGBT groups will be allowed to march in the parade under their own identifying banner.
“To have the parade point a finger and say to me and others, ‘You’re not as good as these other Irish people,’ has been very, very painful,” Christine Quinn, the former Speaker of the New York City Council who is openly gay, told The New York Times. “That is now coming to an end.”
The first group to march will be OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBT employee resource group for NBC Universal, a division of Comcast (No. 44 in the DiversityInc Top 50). NBC, whose contract to televise the parade ends in 2015, reportedly threatened to drop coverage if LGBT groups weren’t included.
Pressure also came from other places. Guinness and Heineken withdrew their sponsorships of the 2014 parade and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march because of the exclusion of LGBT groups.
For these reasons, some members of the LGBT community weren’t exactly celebrating.
“They weren’t nudged, they were shoved into making this decision,” said Fred Sainz, Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Human Rights Campaign, told The AP. “They were increasingly beginning to look like dinosaurs.
“In one of the world’s most diverse and inclusive cities, not to allow gay people to march was becoming an anachronistic decision that they could no longer reasonably justify.”
Initially, organizers said that OUT@NBCUniversal would be the only LGBT group to march in 2015, but the vice chairman of the organizing committee, John Lahey, later clarified that this is simply because no other groups have applied, and that “we don’t encourage or discourage applications from other groups.”
The church in recent months has begun to open the door to LGBT parishioners while still standing its ground on gay clergy and same-gender marriage.
“I have no trouble with the decision at all,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. “I think the decision is a wise one.”
But other corners of Catholicism are less accepting.
In a blog entry on the National Catholic Register’s website, Pat Archbold writes, “[This] is a shameful and sinful capitulationby the parade organizers and Cardinal Dolan. If a parade that is meant to honor a great saint is being used to promote a sinful agenda, it should be cancelled rather than allow it to be used in such a way. It is one thing for a parade committee to fold under pressure, but it is quite another that the Cardinal Archbishop of New York would be asked to lend his name and office to the parade. Such an action can be viewed in no other way than total capitulation to gay identity groups.”
Regardless, at least one group will make history come March.
“This was decades’ worth of work,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLAAD. “The LGBT organizations are the ones that put pressure on the corporations that were sponsoring the parade, and when they withdrew it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”