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Parade Slams The Door On Pro-Life Groups, Includes Gays

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter

A New York pro-life group is furious after learning Thursday that St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers will allow gay activists to march in the parade, but will not allow a pro-life group to march.

“To allow the gay rights group to march and not the pro life group is unconscionable,” Elizabeth Rex, president of the Children First Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In a stated effort to keep the parade non-political, organizers have refused to allow gay activists or pro-life groups or any other cause to march explicitly in the parade. Instead, marchers gather behind Irish-Catholic county or heritage banners.

But after losing several big sponsors and the support of the mayor last year, organizers tried to cater to gay activists without losing Catholic support by promising one gay group and one pro-life group could march in 2015.

Rex learned Thursday the organizers have no intention of keeping their promise to pro-lifers. “I do believe it is discrimination and censorship,” she told TheDCNF. “They do not want a pro-life group in the parade.”

Organizers announced in September that Out@NBCUniversal, a gay and lesbian activist group, would march in the parade. But Rex had to hire a lawyer just to find out the status of her group’s application to march. The organizers finally rejected the application Jan. 28, telling Rex they had chosen another group, that would be led by the Knights of Columbus honor guard.

“I apologize for my tardiness,” the letter said, which Rex received the day before her lawyer threatened further legal action. “This is a very busy time and we are all volunteers.”

Rex called every pro-life group she knows, hoping to coordinate with them and march behind their banner, but was unable to find any pro-life group planning to march. “That’s not treating this other pro life group fairly because the gay group has had four months to tell everyone they’ll be marching and recruiting support,” she said.

Thursday she learned there is no pro-life group. “They say that the Knights of Columbus are pro-life and two thirds of the parade is probably pro life, so there’s no need for a pro-life group to march under its own banner.”

The same case could be made for the gay group that will be allowed to march, since thousands march every year. A coalition of gay activists is still planning a boycott of the parade, because it doesn’t believe the organizers are being inclusive enough. The one gay group that will be allowed to march is affiliated with NBC, which broadcasts the parade.

“We have to take it one step at at a time, reassess and then make a judgment,” top parade official Hilary Beirne said Tuesday. (RELATED: St. Paddy’s Day Parade Tolerance Bid Draws Ire)

“They just want 100 percent focus on the gay group this year,” Rex told TheDCNF. “They used the agreement in my opinion to get the gay group in and then they slammed the door in my face.” She said Cardinal Timothy Dolan agreed to march in the parade after the organizers promised one pro-life group and one gay group would be allowed to march.

“This is just so unethical,” she added. “This is lying to everyone right and left. I suspect they’ve been lying to the cardinal.”

Asked whether Dolan will refuse to march if a pro-life group is not ultimately allowed, a spokesperson said, “As of now, he plans to march.”

Beirne was not immediately available for comment.

Rex said she will challenge the decision in every way she can, and has already been in contact with multiple local and national pro-life groups. “How stupid do they think we are? That they can lie to us in that fashion,” she said.

“This is really just discrimination against pro-life catholics and pro-life groups, and the parade committee has double crossed them. And if everyone is so welcoming, so pro-life, then there should be no objection to a pro-life banner.”

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