Editorial

NYC Council right to shun St. Patrick's Day Parade

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (center) and

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (center) and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (third to the right) and other guests march on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan during the city's 252nd annual St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17, 2013. The parade honors the patron saint of Ireland and was held for the first time in New York on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (Credit: Getty Images)

In a welcome move Tuesday, the City Council marched away from plans to officially participate in next month's St. Patrick's Day Parade. It joins Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced his own boycott earlier.

While council members may march as individuals, the council banner and sergeant-at-arms will not, said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The parade is embroiled in controversy this year for the identical reason it has been igniting waves of indignation for the last 20-plus years: Its rules effectively prohibit gay groups from taking part.

Organizers have a constitutional right to stage the kind of event they want. And municipal workers have a right to join the parade.

But history is not on the side of the organizers.

Since this controversy first began, 17 states -- including New York -- have permitted same-sex marriage.

Attitudes are rapidly changing.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is likely to veto a measure later this week that would allow businesses -- on religious grounds -- to refuse service to gays and lesbians.

Why? Because she is worried about slowing the state's economic momentum.

When discrimination becomes a national economic taboo, you're hearing the rumble of a barrier about to fall.

We also find it healthy that city leaders are taking such decisive stands on gay rights. It's another sign of shifting sensibilities. Former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who's openly gay, stayed away from the parade while she was in office. But the council didn't take an official stand.

"Politics is the only machinery around on which you can really straighten things out," observed the late Paul O'Dwyer, a former City Council president, human rights crusader and supporter of groups that wanted to march under a gay banner in a 1990s St. Patrick's Day Parade.

If these conflicts seem tiresome year after year, and if the issues sometimes seem irreconcilable, it's important to remember that social change is always incremental and politics is seldom tidy. But human progress marches on.

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