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World & Nation

Catholic League quits St. Patrick’s Day Parade after ban on gays ends

Parade protest
New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade protesters in 2006.
(Dima Gavrysh / Associated Press)

A New York City Catholic group has pulled out of next year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, just a week after parade officials decided to allow a gay rights group to march in the event under its own banner.

The Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, which has marched in the parade for 20 years, made the announcement Thursday, claiming parade officials changed the rules to allow an LGBT group from NBC Universal to march under its own banner while refusing to let an antiabortion group do the same.

“My reasons for withdrawing from the parade have nothing to do with Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan or with gays. It has to do with being betrayed by the parade committee,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement. “They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics.”

On Sept. 3, parade officials said they would allow OUT@NBCUniversal to march next year in the hopes of ending a political furor that has surrounded the event.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to participate in the parade last year, and Guinness dropped its sponsorship because parade officials have repeatedly resisted pushes to allow gays to march under their own banner.

Calls to parade officials seeking comment Thursday were not immediately returned. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New York said her office did not have any immediate reaction.

Donohue, the Catholic League President, has argued he would only support the participation of openly gay marchers if a pro-life Catholic group were allowed to march as well.

“Repeatedly, I have said that gays have no more been banned from marching than pro-life Catholics have: members of both groups can march with other units; they simply can’t march under their own banner,” Donohue wrote. “Why? Because the parade is not about gays or abortion, or anything other than St. Patrick.”

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The parade repeatedly refused to lift its ban in recent years, even as New York legalized same-sex marriage. A report in the Irish Voice newspaper last week also contended that NBC, which has broadcast the parade since 1990, was preparing to drop its coverage of the event and several other corporate sponsors were likely to back out if the ban on gay marchers was not erased.

The Catholic League’s refusal to march comes as support for gay rights and same-sex marriage continues to swell in the form of court decisions overturning same-sex marriage bans throughout the country.

Dolan, who will serve as grand marshal of the 2015 parade, has also said he supported the decision to allow gays to march.

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