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St. Patrick's Day parade organizers to expand LGBT participation

Members of OUT@NBCUniversal, march during the St. Patrick's

Members of OUT@NBCUniversal, march during the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York on March 17, 2015. New York's St. Patrick's Day parade allowed a solitary gay group to march openly for the first time in its 254-year history. Photo Credit: Getty Images / JEWEL SAMAD

The St. Patrick's Day Parade will expand participation by LGBT groups next year, allowing The Lavender & Gay Alliance to join the procession down Fifth Avenue, it was announced yesterday.

"We celebrate the welcome!" Brendan Fay, founder of the alliance, said in a statement. "St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2016, will be a great day for hospitality and inclusion."

It was unclear whether the move would bring about an end to the boycott that pro-LGBT rights politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, have observed in recent years.

The parade's board invited the alliance, which hosts its own annual march in Queens, to join Out@NBCUniversal, which broke the anti-gay group barrier in this year's parade. NBC New York televises the march.

In a statement, board chairman John L. Lahey said organizers are working with Ireland's government on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising -- the 1916 insurrection for Irish independence -- "to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit."

Irish Queers, an advocacy group, said years of grassroots campaigning paid off in "a victory for our beautiful queer and Irish community of support, stretching from New York City to Ireland and beyond."

De Blasio hasn't decided whether he will join the 2016 parade, spokeswoman Karen Hinton said.

"Mayor de Blasio has always called for as much inclusiveness as possible in these parades, and he will review these proposed changes," she said.

Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, a Manhattan Democrat who also has boycotted the parade, had no immediate comment.

Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, said he won't participate in the parade for a second year.

"I don't deal with people who sell out their own religion because they want to sell out to the secular elite," he said.

With Emily Ngo

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