Mayor Bill de Blasio marched Sunday near the head of the gay-friendly St. Pat's for All parade in Queens, leading a contingent of elected officials who will also join him in boycotting the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan later this month because it excludes LGBT community members.
"We are here to honor the extraordinary Irish heritage of this city . . . and we want to do it in a way that respects all people and all communities," de Blasio said.
Three other citywide officials -- Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito -- also attended the parade along Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside and Woodside, which drew thousands of revelers. They will skip the larger and older annual parade on March 17 along Fifth Avenue, which attracts about 1 million people.
Organizers of the Manhattan event do not allow openly gay participants to carry banners, wear pins or otherwise identify themselves as gay. Parade representatives could not be reached for comment Sunday, but they have said the event does not discriminate.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who marches with his conservative group, has said the parade is "not about homosexuals, or abortion, or anything other than honoring St. Patrick."
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a vocal proponent of gay rights, but marched in Manhattan each year.
De Blasio will not prohibit city employees -- including police officers and firefighters -- from marching in uniform, though James and others have pushed for such a ban.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has said he will be participate, and de Blasio Sunday said he had no trouble with Bratton's call. "We have to respect everyone's individuality and their right to make their own decision," he said.
Irish-American and openly gay Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who helped found St. Pat's for All 15 years ago, will not attend the Manhattan parade but hopes organizers will change their policy. He pointed out that South Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade this year will include a gay advocacy group.
"It's said that on St. Patrick's Day everybody can be Irish," he said. "It's time that the Fifth Avenue parade live up to that."