Barely Taking a Breath, de Blasio Says "Nyet"

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Mayor Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO
Mayor Bill de Blasio. | DONNA ACETO

Less than 24 hours after LGBT activists and their allies called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to bar uniformed city personnel from marching in the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade, they received a pretty firm no.

Asked by reporters on February 4 for his response to the activists’ letter, the mayor said, “I believe that uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right.”

In response to a follow-up question, the mayor dug in, saying, “I've said what I think, I respect the right of our city workers to march in uniform, period.” Then, replying to a question about his own intentions regarding the parade, which has for more than two decades barred participation by openly gay and lesbian groups, de Blasio said, “I am not planning on marching in the parade, I haven't in the past, in my capacity as an elected official… I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city.”

Activists responsible for putting together the sign-on letter were harshly critical of de Blasio’s quick dismissal of their request.

“The mayor has ducked and punted, saying only that he won't march himself,” read a release from the Ad Hoc Coalition Against Participation in Discriminatory Parades. “This isn't much to be celebrated: no truly progressive politician has marched since the parade banned the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization from marching with its banner in 1991 and Mayor Dinkins stood alongside ILGO only to be pelted with beer cans.”

At least one leading LGBT community group had a very different reaction, celebrating the stance taken by the mayor.

“We commend Mayor de Blasio’s public refusal to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the grounds that the organizers are prohibiting participants from any outward displays of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride,” Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Nathan Schaefer said in a written statement. “As New York’s LGBT advocacy organization, we’re proud to stand behind a mayor who holds inclusivity and diversity as pillars of his leadership. Mayor de Blasio’s statement today sends a strong message to New York City and beyond that it’s not OK to exclude any one group just because of who they are, and that no entity, religious or otherwise, should discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”

Even while praising the mayor for his announcement he would not march, Schaefer signed on to the letter circulated by the Ad Hoc Coalition.

According to Emmaia Gelman, an activist involved in the Ad Hoc Coalition, that group intends to call a community meeting in the near future to plan next steps.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Andy Humm says:
The community meeting to respond to de Blasio is on Wed., Feb. 12th at 8 pm at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St.
Feb. 6, 2014, 12:47 am
J. F. Mulligan says:
I submit that if the Mayor was going to boycott a parade because it banned people of color he would whole heartedly support pulling City uniformed workers from a racist event. DeBlasio lacks that analysis when it comes to us, as LGBT people. The community demand is to pull all City support from a private religious event that engages in bigotry.
Feb. 6, 2014, 8:58 am
Jay Kallio says:
The issue of "freedom of speech" for uniformed police and firemen is more complex than for other citizens. Their right to "protected speech" is limited to speech that does NOT interfere with the harmonious functioning of their services. This especially applies to police officers, who are considered to be paramilitary, not civilians. There is a strong prohibition against the military voicing political opinions, a limitation designed to prevent military coups, which are a regular occurrence in many other countries. One of the types of speech that is most clearly included in "unprotected" speech is racism. Even privately expressed racism, such as posts on Facebook, by police officers is considered unprotected speech, and may result in dismissal because it destroys unit cohesion and the harmonious function of the service. While not technically illegal, officers voicing bigotry risk their employment. Bigotry against LGBT people should be included in the category of "unprotected speech" as would hate speech and exclusion of any other minority group. This should especially apply to officers in uniform, representing their service. Behavior in uniform should be impeccable, as it expresses group stance on an issue, not an individual opinion, a major distinction. DeBlasio should carefully re-evaluate his knee-jerk "respect" for the rights of uniformed officers to march with a group that is clearly, overtly discriminatory. If uniformed officers marched in their units with a group of hooded KKK members on 5th Ave, would that pass muster? I think not.
Feb. 8, 2014, 11:36 am

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