City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will announce later today that the Council will not field a formal contingent in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, Gay City News has learned.
In a written statement set for release, the Council cited the ban on participation by LGBT groups that has been in place for two decades.
"The St. Patrick's Parade should be a time when all New Yorkers can come together and march openly as who they are –– but right now that is not the case for the LGBT community," Mark-Viverito said. "This City Council is committed to celebrating and respecting the diversity of New York City and that is why we've decided to not participate in the parade. I hope the organizers will eventually realize that the parade will be better when all New Yorkers can march openly and proudly."
The announcement means that the annual March 17 parade will include no Council banner and no sergeant-at-arms, which have long been part of the event.
Past speakers, including out lesbian Christine Quinn as well as Gifford Miller, declined to participate in the parade, but allowed a formal contingent of Council members who wished to march to do so.
The speaker’s release emphasized that individual Council members are free to participate.
The announcement comes three weeks after a group of several hundred New Yorkers sent Mayor Bill de Blasio an open letter, published in and endorsed by Gay City News, which asked that he bar any uniformed city employees from marching or carrying an official banner. De Blasio wasted no time rejecting that request, saying, “I believe that uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right.”
In response to the Council action, Emmaia Gelman, an activist involved with the Ad Hoc Coalition Against Participation in Discriminatory Parades, which put together the open letter to the mayor, said, "The speaker's move to expand the boycott of the parade is really welcome –– the City Council can and must take a stronger stand on this than individually staying out of the parade. We've also asked the NYPD and FDNY commissioners to withdraw their permission for uniformed cops and firefighters to march, which is their obligation. We've asked them to respond by tomorrow."
Though four Council members signed the letter to de Blasio, Mark-Viverito did not, nor did out gay Councilmen Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens and Brooklyn freshman Carlos Menchaca.
Both Van Bramer and Dromm praised Mark-Viverito’s decision.
“I am extremely proud that the NYC Council under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has taken a strong stand against bigotry and will not participate in the parade until LGBT people are treated equally," Dromm said in the statement due for release.
"I applaud Speaker Mark-Viverito for taking a stand against the exclusion of LGBT marchers in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan,” said Van Bramer, who is the Council’s majority leader. “I won't march until we can all march –– and I'm proud to be a member of this New York City Council which is always fighting for equality for all."
Councilmen Corey Johnson, who represents Manhattan’s West Side, and Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, both of whom signed the open letter to the mayor, also praised the speaker’s decision. Among the six out LGBT members of the Council, Rosie Mendez from the Lower East Side also signed on to the open letter.
Mark-Viverito, Van Bramer, and Dromm did not immediately respond to requests for comment about their view of the activists’ request regarding uniformed city officials marching. Van Bramer and Dromm also declined to respond to earlier Gay City News’ requests for comment.