Bill de Blasio on Tuesday rejected a call by gay rights activists and other elected officials to ban uniformed New York City workers from marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade, saying they have "the right" to participate.
However, de Blasio said he would not join the March 17 parade, whose organizers have enforced a long-standing ban on openly gay groups. He noted he has declined to march in the past, adding, "I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city."
The mayor was responding to an open letter addressed to him and signed by Public Advocate Letitia James, State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and groups including Stonewall Democrats of New York City. The letter said the presence of uniformed police officers and firefighters "sends a clear signal to LGBTQ New Yorkers that these personnel, who are charged with serving and protecting all New Yorkers, do not respect the lives or safety of LGBT people."
De Blasio said he would not order a ban.
"I respect the right of our city workers to march in uniform, period," de Blasio said when asked about the letter during a news conference at City Hall.
Former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani -- both supportive of gay rights -- have marched in past St. Patrick's Day parades. De Blasio said he would participate in other events celebrating Irish heritage that day.
Sean Barry, executive director of Vocal-NY, a group run by people affected by HIV and AIDS, said he appreciates that de Blasio is declining to march but called the permitting of workers representing the city to do so "insulting."
Barry said workers participating out of uniform on their own time have a "free speech right" to do so.
Emmaia Gelman, an organizer with Irish Queers, the group that circulated the open letter, said she doesn't believe the mayor's comments Tuesday were the "end of the discussion."
A spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association police union had no immediate comment on its members' participation and de Blasio's stances.