City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced yesterday that the council will join Mayor Bill de Blasio in skipping the St. Patrick's Day Parade because LGBT groups are banned from participating.
While individual council members are free to march on their own, there will be no Council presence, banner or sergeant-at-arms. It is the first time that the City Council has officially opted out of the annual Irish-American event.
"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," Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he wouldn't be marching in the March 17 parade on Fifth Avenue because of its policies, which also bar any expression or symbol of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The last mayor to not march was David Dinkins.
De Blasio has rejected calls to ban city employees, such as police officers and firefighters, from marching in uniform, calling their decisions "a matter of their right to free speech and free expression" at an unrelated news conference yesterday.
The nonprofit group that organizes the parade, a city tradition since 1762, didn't return messages for comment.
Glennda Testone, the executive director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village, said the boycotts could increase pressure on the organizers to end the ban.
Nineteen council members publicly stated yesterday that they would not march. Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) said, "These parades take place in public spaces and should be a welcoming activity to all."
Twenty-six members did not return messages from amNewYork for comment. Two -- Peter Koo of Flushing and Vanessa L. Gibson of the Bronx -- declined to comment. A staff member of Councilman Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican, said he is still planning to attend the parade.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights blasted Mark-Viverito for her decision.
"When a government agent prohibits the celebration of St. Patrick's Day ... it is an obscene exercise in censorship," he said in a statement. He added that gays can march in the parade, "just so long as they blend in like everyone else."
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who is openly gay, said many members will march together Sunday in the St. Pat's for All parade in Sunnyside which welcomes all participants.
Nineteen City Council members told amNewYork that they will stand by the speaker’s decision not to march in the parade.
Brad Lander (D) Park Slope
Carlos Menchaca (D) Red Hook
Stephen Levin (D) Brooklyn Heights
Melissa Mark-Viverito (D) East Harlem
Ben Kallos (D) Upper East Side
Corey Johnson (D) West Side
Rosie Mendez (D) Lower East Side
Dan Garodnik (D) Midtown
Mark Levine (D) Upper West Side
Helen Rosenthal (D) West Side
Andrew Cohen (D) Kingsbridge
Annabel Palma (D) Parkchester
Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D) South Bronx
Julissa Ferreras (D) Corona
Costa Constantinides (D) Astoria
Danny Dromm (D) Jackson Heights
Jimmy Van Bramer (D) Sunnyside
Liz Crowley (D) Middle Village
Karen Kozlowitz (D) Forest Hills
(Michael Wang and Ben Wolford)