Hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with Irish roots marched for the first time as a group Thursday in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Leading the procession was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who helped broker a deal this month to secure participation of the Lavender & Green Alliance, the LGBT group that for over two decades fought parade organizers to allow such groups to march.
The alliance’s march up Fifth Avenue was a stark contrast to the scene 25 years ago when then-Mayor David Dinkins was pelted with boos, curses and beer cans when he marched in the parade with gay people.
“The whole thing was tragic,” de Blasio said Thursday. “It didn’t have to be.”
He added: “But, you know what? Time can heal a lot of wounds. So, 25 years later, we got it done.”
De Blasio, his wife, Chirlane McCray, and activists who fought with parade organizers over the gay group ban were greeted outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral by two bishops and a monsignor.
A quarter-century ago, then-Cardinal John O’Connor, who had spoken against homosexuality as sinful, protested Dinkins’ march by breaking tradition and not greeting dignitaries outside the cathedral.
On Thursday, de Blasio wore a dotted green tie as he marched with Police Commissioner William Bratton. Three hundred groups participated, with hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route, a parade official said.
The mayor first marched with members of the NYPD, followed by the FDNY and then the alliance.
Earlier, the mayor held a breakfast at Gracie Mansion with former Sen. George Mitchell, a Democrat who was involved in the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Afterward, de Blasio attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Parade-goer Ann Kellner of Floral Park said she came to celebrate her family’s Irish heritage. Kellner’s family was looking forward to the somber procession of 343 flags — one for each of the FDNY firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Joan Crowley of Babylon, a teacher who watched the parade with a longtime friend, said she’s been to “too many to count.”
“The bagpipers — I love them,” she said as an FDNY contingent marched by. “It’s a great day for the Irish.”