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Bill de Blasio to skip St. Patrick's Day parade over gay rights

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio said he won't march because organizers don't let participants carry gay-pride signs.
Bill DeBlasio attends a press conference, Jan. 30, 2014.
Bill DeBlasio attends a press conference, Jan. 30, 2014.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will forego marching in the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, rejecting the event organizers' prohibition on pro-gay rights expression.

"I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city," the mayor said at a press conference Tuesday. "But I simply disgaree with the organizers of that parade."

De Blasio will be the first mayor in 20 years to not participate in the march down Fifth Avenue. Mayor de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was also an outspoken advocate of marriage quality, but took part in the annual event during his 12 years in office. Rudolph Giuliani also marched every year he was mayor. 

In 1993, then-mayor David Dinkins refused to participate in the event after organizers won a court case to disallow gay Irish-Americans from marching. The judge ruled that event organizers are protected under the First Amendment to choose which participants they'd like to partake in their event. Since then, the event, which is run by private organizers, has banned public expressions touting gay rights. 

Even while serving on City Council and as the city's public advocate, de Blasio never participated in the parade. 

William Donohue, the president of New York City's Catholic League, quickly blasted the mayor's decision. "Personally, I am delighted," said Donohue. "I lead the Catholic League contingent every year, and I do not want to march with a public official who does not want to be associated with Irish Catholics."

Around 200,000 participants march in the event, which draws an audience of more than 1 million bystanders. The event will include traditional Irish dancers, bands, and thousands of uniformed city workers from local police, fire, corrections and sanitation departments. 

Public Advocate Letitia James, along with other city officials, signed a petition calling for the mayor to ban city workers from marching in the parade while wearing their uniforms since members of the LGBT community could not publicly display anything that would promote their community.  

Bill de Blasio disagreed, saying that he would not ask city workers to do so.

"I believe uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right," de Blasio said.

The parade will take place on March 17.