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Editorial: Welcome change by St. Pat's Parade

After decades of bickering and boycotts, organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan have lifted their ban on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups that want to march under their own banners in the city's iconic event.

That's marching in the right direction -- an apparent act of pragmatism by parade organizers that contains the promise of becoming a gay-rights milestone and a nod to the parade's history.

The organizers made the only logical decision possible in the face of steadily growing pressure over the ban. Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march in the event. Guinness dumped its sponsorship. Even the Irish government was threatening to withdraw its support.

And news reports say NBC was threatening to end its TV coverage because of the ban. That could explain why the only LGBT group allowed to march in the 2015 parade is OUT@NBCUniversal, composed of NBC employees.

Other LGBT groups are welcome to apply for places in the 2016 parade. We wish that could happen sooner -- but there's still plenty to applaud.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said he's good with the plan of inclusion and hopes the parade will continue to be a "source of unity for us all."

Why is this event so important?

For one thing, the annual march along Fifth Avenue is the largest such parade in the world. But there's more to the story than that. The city's first St. Patrick's Day Parade took place in the mid-1700s and came into its own a century later -- allowing Irish-Americans to celebrate their culture and religion.

It quickly became a way to send a message to a larger Protestant society that was excluding them. Showcasing the sheer size of the Irish vote, the parade served notice on New York's ruling powers that the Irish were a people with whom they must reckon.

That is not too different from the respect and inclusion that LGBT groups have been seeking every March 17 for what seems an eternity. They have won a major battle now. We're hoping for lasting unity long into the future.