NEW YORK, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- A gay and lesbian group will be able to march openly in next year's St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City, officials said Wednesday.
A source told the Irish Voice that NBC Universal threatened to stop broadcasting the parade unless organizers lifted the ban on gay groups. Now, Out@NBCUniversal, a group of NBC employees, will be able to march up Fifth Avenue under its own banner.
The ban on gay groups has become a sore point in recent years. Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to march and Guinness, one of the best-known Irish brands, dropped its sponsorship.
"Once an iconic company like Guinness showed it was standing up pretty much everyone else had to follow," the source told the Voice.
Parade organizers insisted the ban was not based on bias against homosexuals but was to keep the parade from being politicized. Critics suggested the close ties between the parade and the Catholic Church were a major factor.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was to be announced Wednesday as next year's grand marshal. The parade is scheduled for March 17, 2015.
Christine Quinn, former speaker of the New York City Council and an open lesbian, has boycotted the parade for years.
"Those of us who are Irish and LGBT would watch this city celebrate and know we weren't welcome," she told the Daily News. "To have that end, not only puts all of that behind us, I hope it sends a message to communities all over the world to not give up the fight. Be proud of yourself. Don't hide who you are."