The St. Patrick's Day Parade board announced Tuesday it will include another LGBT group to march with a banner in next year's celebration.
The Lavender & Gay Alliance, the city LGBT group that hosts its own march in Queens, will join Out @NBCUniversal during the parade down Fifth Avenue. The group's founder Brendan Fay, said this moment was a longtime coming for the city's Irish gay population.
"We celebrate the welcome! St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2016, will be a great day for hospitality and inclusion," he said in a statement.
The board broke its 25-year rule of barring LGBT groups from marching this year when it approved the group from NBC, which broadcasts the event. Board Chair John L. Lahey said the parade's organizers wanted to adhere to the values of the Easter Rising, the 100-year-old event which was considered the birth of Irish independence.
"We are working with the government of Ireland in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit," he said in a statement.
The parade came under harsh criticism from LGBT groups and elected officials for its former stance on gay groups, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who both skipped both the 2014 and 2015 parades. Irish Queers, an LGBT advocacy group who protested this year's parade, said the years of grassroots campaigning paid off.
"Protests held the line year after year where politics constantly failed. It's also a victory for our beautiful queer and Irish community of support, stretching from New York City to Ireland and beyond," they said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said he hasn't decided if he will join the 2016 parade.
"Mayor de Blasio has always called for as much inclusiveness as possible in these parades, and he will review these proposed changes," spokeswoman Karen Hinton said.
Mark-Viverito have yet to comment about The Lavender & Gay Alliance's inclusion for next year.
Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, openly criticized the LGBT groups' inclusion and declined to participate this year after he said the board denied him the right to march under a pro-life banner. Donohue said he wouldn't march again in 2016.
"I don't deal with people who sell out their own religion because they want to sell out to the secular elite," he said.