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Catholic League Says It Will Not March In 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- The world's largest St. Patrick's Day parade is making more headlines.

A week after Organizers of the NYC St. Patrick's Day parade announced that they are ending a ban and allowing a gay group to march under its own banner for the first time, the president of the Catholic League said his group will not march in the parade.

The Catholic League has marched in New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade for 20 years.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the decision was based on not having a pro-life group march and issued the following statement Thursday:

"Prior to the announcement that a gay group would march under its own banner in the 2015 parade, I was consulted by parade organizers about their plans. I told them that I could only support this decision if there were a formal revision in the parade's rules governing marching units, and that is exactly what I said in my first public statement. To be specific, I asked them to pledge that a pro-life Catholic group would also be permitted. I was told that a formal change in the rules had been approved and that a pro-life group would march. Now I am being told that the list of marching units is set and that no pro-life group will march in next year's parade. Accordingly, I have decided to withdraw our participation."

"I was told that one would be selected, just as the gay group was selected. Well they chose to select the gay group and stiff the pro-lifers, that's why I'm saying enough is enough," Donohue said.

As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, Donohue said he's been double-crossed by the parade committee, calling the committee's actions "stunning" and "indefensible."

"I am angry. And I'm disappointed. I look forward to this parade all the time. I don't mind taking the heat defending them for 20 years. I do feel like I've been betrayed, that I've been used by some people," he said.

Catholic League Says It Will Not March In 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade

The St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee issued a brief response to the Catholic League's decision not to march.

"That's disappointing," the group said in a statement. "The Catholic League is always welcome in the parade."

St. Patrick's Day Parade
Activists on Sept. 9, 2014, demand St. Patrick's Day Parade organizers allow more LGBT groups to march in the event. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Last Wednesday, on the decision to allow OUT(at)NBCUniversal — a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group at the company that broadcasts the parade -- to march under a banner, Donahue said that Corporate America is lined up with the gay rights movement. "It's not a secret," said Donohue. "And they've done the same thing here."

However, in the statement today, Donohue said his reasons for withdrawing from the parade have nothing to do with Cardinal Dolan or with gays.

"It has to do with being betrayed by the parade committee. They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics. This is as stunning as it is indefensible," said Donohue.

At a news conference last Wednesday, Dolan said he was OK with the decision to allow the LGBT group to march.

"I have no trouble with the decision at all," Dolan said, adding that the parade has "never been free of controversy," and that he thought the decision to allow the group to march was "a wise one."

"The decision wasn't mine to make but I've learned as a student in the history of the parade and I've learned in my five happy years as archbishop of New York to have immense trust and confidence in the wisdom of the parade organizers," Dolan said.

Dolan will serve as the grand marshal of the parade next year.

Donohue asserted that despite withdrawing from the parade he remains an ardent supporter of Dolan's.

"Attempts will now be made to pit me against Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Grand Marshal of the 2015 parade. The suggestion that I am at odds with the New York Archbishop is not only false, it is despicable. Cardinal Dolan has no more rabid supporter than Bill Donohue, and nothing that has transpired recently changes anything," Donohue said.

Niall O'Dowd, the Executive Editor of Irish Voice, told CBS 2's Tony Aiello that the dispute is part of the controversy that he expected would come with the policy change.

"There's going to be extremes on both sides who are never going to be happy with the accommodation. Irish Queers is saying they want the parade boycotted, obviously Bill Donahue is boycotting, but if they're your only two enemies I think you're doing the right thing," O'Dowd said.

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