NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio told hundreds of participants at a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday that a society for all is one that embraces and respects everyone.
The St. Pat's for All parade stepped off in Queens under a heavy snowfall. It was held as an alternative to the city's centuries-old St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan, which for years has excluded gay groups and this year is scheduled for March 17.
De Blasio arrived about 15 minutes late sporting a lavender shirt and green tie. Despite the snow and cold he said, "It's a sunny day in my world."
"You are a hardy troupe," he told people gathered for the parade. "You are here to celebrate no matter what. That is what pride is all about — pride in the fact that in New York City you can be whoever you are."
De Blasio, a Democrat, refused to march in last year's Manhattan parade because it wasn't fully inclusive, and Guinness beer dropped its sponsorship. Organizers said last year, though, that they would welcome one gay contingent under its own banner this year.
The mayor said on Sunday: "A society for everyone is a society where everyone is respected, where everyone is embraced, where everyone has a say at the table."
In the past, gays were free to march in the world's biggest and oldest St. Patrick's Day Parade but not with banners saying they're LGBT. Most marching units in the parade carry identifying banners. There are about 320 units in this year's parade, the parade committee said.
LGBT activists say the main parade organizer, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, has been under increasing pressure to allow diversity, especially after New York state passed its Marriage Equality Act in 2011, allowing marriages for same-sex couples.
The two grand marshals at the 15th annual St. Pat's for All parade were longtime human rights activist Kerry Kennedy and Tony Award-winning actor Brian O'Byrne.
Patti Lowenhaupt, a retired art teacher and Queens resident who showed up for the parade, said people "are all human beings underneath it all."
"We here in Queens have the ability to accept all kinds of people," Lowenhaupt said.
Several protesters, however, stood on the side holding signs that read "Sodom & Gomorrah."
Other elected officials participating in the St. Pat's for All parade included City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.