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New York mayor Bill de Blasio skips St Patrick’s parade over gay rights


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

It is the largest St Patrick’s Day parade in the world, a boisterous celebration of New York’s Irish heritage when the city is blanketed in a sea of green.

But Bill de Blasio, the new Democratic mayor, will be skipping the centuries-old march in protest at the organisers’ ban on gay groups or signs.

Several other prominent New York Democrats are also skipping next month’s parade, long viewed as a mandatory date for the city's elected officials, but increasingly a source of political tension.

An estimated two million people will turn out to watch 200,000 participants from hundreds of organisations march along Fifth Avenue. But organisers refuse to allow gay groups and prohibit any pro-gay expressions from marchers.

But Mr de Blasio, who was elected on a progressive platform, will be the first mayor in 20 years to miss the parade.

"I will be participating in a number of other events to honour the Irish heritage of this city,” he said. “But I simply disagree with the organisers of that parade.”

The ban on pro-gay signs and banners has been challenged in the courts, but judges ruled that the organisers have a constitutional right to choose participants as they are a private group.

The parade committee has said that gays are welcome to march in the five-hour procession as long as they do not carry identifying signs.

Michael Bloomberg, Mr de Blasio’s predecessor, was a strong supporter of same sex marriage, but he marched in each parade during his 12 years in office. Rudolph Giuliani, the previous mayor, also joined the parade during his two terms.

Bill Donahue, the combative president of the city’s Catholic League, said he was delighted by the decision by Mr de Blasio, who was raised a Catholic by his Italian-American mother but does not attend church.

"I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics,” he said.

However, Mr de Blasio turned down calls from some Democrats to ban city workers from marching while wearing their uniforms.