From: wsj.com

History Is Made as Protests Go On

Gay NBC employees march in St. Patrick’s parade; mayor boycotts but notes ‘progress’

By Michael Howard Saul and Sonja Sharp
March 17, 2015

The first gay organization in the history of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade marched up Fifth Avenue on Tuesday, but its presence failed to quell criticism from politicians and others who accused the event’s organizers of discrimination.

For the second year in a row, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials, including City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, boycotted the event because they said the organizers excluded Irish gay groups.

The organizers ban displays of gay identification, such as banners, flags and pins, which effectively prevents openly gay groups from marching. But this year, for the first time, they made an exception, allowing Out@NBCUniversal, a group of gay employees at NBC, to march behind its own banner.

The NBC group was one of the last contingents to march, starting its procession up Fifth Avenue a bit before 4 p.m., after NBC’s local station stopped broadcasting the event.

Mayor Bill de Blasio attends St. Patrick’s Day morning mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He boycotted the parade.
Mayor Bill de Blasio attends St. Patrick’s Day morning mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He boycotted the parade.
Photo: Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

 

The group of about 60 people marched behind a banner that read: “Out@NBCUniversal: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Ally Employee Alliance.”

“It is pretty awesome,” said one member of the NBC delegation, 30-year-old Kaitlin Becker, who identified herself as gay. “I’m very excited. It’s super important. It’s the first time ever…. It feels great to be a part of it and this is just the first step in a long journey.”

One man standing near Central Park gave the delegation the thumbs-down sign, prompting Rob Buchanan, an NBC producer, to confront him.

Mr. Buchanan ran up to the man and told him he was the first person on the route to respond negatively. “So, be proud of that,” he said before being pulled away.

The New York City Police Emerald Society Pipe & Drum corps marches in the St. Patrick's Day.
The New York City Police Emerald Society Pipe & Drum corps marches in the St. Patrick's Day.
Photo: mike segar/Reuters

 

Several people along the parade route said “thank you” as the NBC group passed by.

Mr. de Blasio and others, including a number of gay activists who held a protest along the parade route, said the NBC group was insufficient. They said it was a corporate organization that isn’t directly connected to Irish culture.

The mayor described the organizers’ decision to permit the NBC group to march as “progress” but said “if someone’s LGBT and they want to celebrate Irish heritage, they should have a right like anyone else.”

Mr. de Blasio, who last year became the first mayor to boycott the parade in 20 years, pointed out that Boston allowed gay organizations to march for the first time this year.

John Dunleavy, chairman of the 253-year-old parade, said he wasn’t disappointed by the mayor’s boycott. “If he doesn’t want to march, that’s his decision,” he said.

A police officer gets a hug while posing for a picture at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York.
A police officer gets a hug while posing for a picture at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York.
Photo: Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal

 

Mr. Dunleavy also defended the protesters, who accused the parade organizers of bigotry. “They have every right to protest,” he said. “This is why you have the freedoms you have in America.”

Mr. Dunleavy declined to comment on whether the organizers would be willing to include other gay groups next year. “I never predict,” he said. “I take one day at a time.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and the grand marshal at this year’s parade, was all smiles at the start of the event. When asked about the mayor not being there, he raised his arms, shrugged and replied, “I’m just happy for everyone who is.”

The mayor held a breakfast Tuesday morning for the Irish community at Gracie Mansion and attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Mr. de Blasio, who has a history of tardiness, showed up late to Mass, making it at least the third St. Patrick’s Day-related event in recent weeks that he was late for.

A man wears a sweater covered in Irish-themed pins at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
A man wears a sweater covered in Irish-themed pins at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Photo: mike segar/Reuters

 

Two beer companies, Guinness and Heineken that had withdrew their corporate sponsorship last year because of the organizers’ policy on gay groups resumed their sponsorship this year because of the NBC group’s inclusion.

Emmaia Gelman, a member of Irish Queers, a group that has been protesting the parade organizers’ policy on gay groups since the early 1990s, praised Mr. de Blasio for boycotting. But she denounced the NBC group, calling it a scandal that the organization has “let itself be used this way.”

Allen Roskoff, a longtime gay activist, said the NBC organization was“undercutting our community” by marching and “basically thumbing their nose at the Irish LGBTQ community.”

“They have betrayed us all,” he said.

Craig Robinson, chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, said he hoped the NBC group would “usher in a new era of inclusion.” Because NBC had a relationship with the parade committee, he said, there was an “opportunity to help change people’s minds.”

Mr. Robinson said he understood why other gay groups were upset, but he said “this was not about us trying to steal anyone’s thunder.”

A group of dancers march in the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
A group of dancers march in the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
Photo: jewel samad/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

 

Betty O’Malley, a 76-year-old retired court reporter from Delaware, traveled to New York to protest Cardinal Dolan for participating in the event. She held a sign that said “Dolan Shame.”

“Cardinal Dolan caved to the homosexual group,” she said. “It’s exalting their lifestyle.”

Dennis Dunn, whose face was painted with the colors of the Irish flag, lambasted Mr. de Blasio’s decision to boycott.

“He deserves to get hammered by the Irish community because he’s ignored us,” he said.



Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. John Blair
  5. Mark Benoit
  6. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  7. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  8. Robin Byrd
  9. Hon. Gale Brewer
  10. Christian Campbell
  11. Kathleen Chalfant
  12. Gus Christensen
  13. Erik Coler
  14. Debra Cooper
  15. Hon. Jon Cooper
  16. Wilson Cruz
  17. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  18. Alan Cumming
  19. Valorie Curry
  20. Michael Czaczkes
  21. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  22. Jon Del Giorno
  23. Aries Dela Cruz
  24. Kyan Douglas
  25. Hon. Daniel Dromm
  26. James Duff
  27. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  28. Kathryn Erbe
  29. Hon. Herman Farrell
  30. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  31. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  32. Dan Gettleman
  33. Hon. Mark Green
  34. Robert Grunnah
  35. Tony Hoffmann
  36. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  37. Binn Jakupi
  38. Hon. Letitia James
  39. Hon. Corey Johnson
  40. Camille Joseph
  41. Phillip Keane
  42. Greg Lambert
  43. Dodge Landesman
  44. Cameron McFadden
  45. Michael Mallon
  46. Mike C. Manning
  47. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  48. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  49. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  50. John Cameron Mitchell
  51. Donny Moss
  52. Barry Mullineaux
  53. Ali Najmi
  54. Hon. Paul Newell
  55. Hawk Newsome
  56. Hon. Yuh-Line Niou
  57. Denis O'Hare
  58. Noah Pfefferbilt
  59. Josue Pierre
  60. Bob Pontarelli
  61. Billy Porter
  62. Joe Pressley
  63. Randy Rainbow
  64. Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar
  65. Neil Reilly
  66. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  67. Barbara Rosen
  68. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  69. Maer Roshan
  70. Toby Russo
  71. Bill Samuels
  72. James Sansum
  73. Scott Sartiano
  74. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  75. Lynn Schulman
  76. Hon. Rebecca Seawright
  77. Frank Selvaggi
  78. Rev. Al Sharpton
  79. Taylor Shubert
  80. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  81. Tom Smith
  82. Marti Speranza
  83. Anne Strahle
  84. Hon. Scott Stringer
  85. Wayne Sunday
  86. Hon. Bill Thompson
  87. Hon. Matt Titone
  88. Hon. Ritchie Torres
  89. Sam Underwood
  90. Derek Walker
  91. Jessica Walter
  92. Patricia Nell Warren
  93. Wil Weder
  94. Seth Weissman
  95. Justin Westbrook-Lowery
  96. Mel Wymore
  97. Emma Wolfe
  98. Hon. Keith Wright
  99. Zephyr Teachout