Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday he will not march in the city's Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day parade again this year until it is "more inclusive" of pro-gay groups, including the St. Pat's For All Parade organizers.
Amid a heavy snowfall, de Blasio marched Sunday with several City Council members and leading gay organizers and advocates at the Sunnyside, Queens, St. Pat's For All Parade, where the Irish gay community has celebrated its heritage and homosexuality for the past 16 years.
Organizers of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, to be held March 17, have publicly excluded gay representation at the iconic parade -- the country's oldest -- which draws thousands from across the city, nation and Ireland to celebrate the Irish holiday along Fifth Avenue. Parade organizers refused to allow the waving of the rainbow flag, a universal symbol of gay rights.
"I'm not ready to commit," said de Blasio, sounding hopeful that the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick's Day organizers will ask more gay groups to join the parade. "There is still time for ongoing discussions that will be embracing for all."
Fifth Avenue parade organizers did invite a gay group that represents NBC network employees; however, de Blasio said it is not representative of the city's LGBT community.
The St. Pat's For All Parade, a Queens tradition, was attended by fewer people than expected because the 7 train was out of service due to weekend track work, said parade organizers. Snowy, cold conditions also kept parade-goers home.
However, the mayor lauded the sparse crowd of almost 100 for their spirit.
"We are showing in our actions today on how to embrace everyone," he said.
Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, co-organizer of the Queens parade, agreed with the mayor that the gay organization invited to march in the Fifth Avenue parade is "not representative of Irish culture and our community."
She, too, said she was hopeful that the Fifth Avenue parade organizers will allow them to march with their rainbow flags.
Gene Walsh, 59, an FDNY firefighter and founder of Fire Flag, an FDNY-recognized gay organization, said New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade "has to include everyone. It's not just a Catholic parade. It is an Irish parade."
Kerry Kennedy, a human rights lawyer and this year's grand marshal of the Queens parade, said the parade is a symbol "against hate."
"Excluding people because they are a sexual minority legitimizes hate," she said. "This parade is the antidote to hate. We believe in love for everyone."