For the first time in its centuries-old history, the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City will include a gay group marching under its own banner.

The organizers of the world's largest parade of its kind said Wednesday that they were dropping their ban on the participation of gay groups.

The Associated Press reports:

"The parade committee, in a statement made available to The Associated Press, said on Wednesday that OUT@NBCUniversal, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group at the company that broadcasts the parade, would be marching up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on March 17 under an identifying banner."It's unclear how the group was chosen: whether OUT@NBCUniversal, which is described on its website as "the affinity group for LGBT & Straight Ally employees at NBCUniversal," was invited by the organizers or applied. Parade directors voted unanimously to include the group, the statement said."Other gay groups can apply to march in future years, spokesman Bill O'Reilly said."

The New York Daily News reports that the policy had become a political lighting rod for the organizers, costing the parade support and sponsorship.

"Mayor de Blasio refused to march in the parade this year, and Guinness beer dropped its sponsorship over the issue," the newspaper reports.

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