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Dolan to lead, gays to march

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

By Ray O'Hanlon

Cardinal Timothy Dolan will lead the 2015 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade and for the first time since 1991 the parade will include a gay marching contingent, though this time with the approval of the parade organizing committee.

In a statement released in advance of Cardinal Dolan’s formal elevation to lead the 254th march, the parade committee announced that a group made up of gay employees at the NBC television network would take its place in the parade line of march.

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The statement said: "The NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade has celebrated Irish culture, heritage, tradition, and the faith of St. Patrick since 1762. In its 252-year history, the parade has included individual marchers of every political and personal persuasion, including members of the gay community. Indeed, in recent years, we have encouraged all New Yorkers and gay participants to join with any of our 320 marching units as a symbol of our inclusiveness.

"At the same time, organizers have diligently worked to keep politics - of any kind - out of the Parade in order to preserve it as a single and unified cultural event.

Paradoxically, that ended up politicizing the Parade. This grand cultural gem has become a target for politicization that it neither seeks nor wants because some groups could join the march but not march with their own banner.

"To address that and move forward, Parade organizers welcome the LGBT group, 'Out@NBCUniversal' to march in the 2015 NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade under its own banner. WNBC TV has long been our broadcast partner in televising the NYC Patrick's Day Parade around the nation.

"This 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 as it moves into its 253rd year, all the while remaining loyal to church teachings and the principles that have guided the parade committee for so many decades."

OUT@NBCUniversal, according to a New York Post report, is “a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender affinity group at 30 Rock.”

The group will be the only gay marching unit in the 2015 parade but other gay groups will be eligible to apply for a place in future parades, the report stated.

It added that OUT@NBCUniversal had applied to be in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, this according to Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal.

“It wasn’t immediately clear why OUT@NBCUniversal was chosen or if there were any other openly gay groups that also applied,” the Post report stated.

“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,” he said.

A spokesman for the parade said that Cardinal Dolan was “very supportive” of including gay groups in the event.

Dolan will be the third cardinal archbishop to lead the parade since 1995 when the late Cardinal john O’Connor made parade history by being the first archbishop to lead the march up Fifth Avenue. Cardinal Edward Egan was the second archbishop to do so.

The last time a parade included a gay marching group marched in the parade was 1991 when the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization marched with Mayor David Dinkins and members of AOH Division 7.

The rumbling row over the participation of a gay group marching under its own banner would cast a long shadow of the parade for a number of years afterwards and would lead to the Ancient Order of Hibernians relinquishing a controlling role and leading it to the independent parade committee.

Last year, newly elected New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, chose not to march because there was no gay group in the parade – as opposed to individual gay marchers who were never excluded from the march.

And in a blow to the parade effort in recent years to attract more needed corporate sponsorship and funding, Guinness withdrew its sponsorship from the parade.

Guinness officials layed a role in brokering the deal that brought OUT@NBCUniversal into the 2015 parade, reported.