NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City will not march in the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, deciding to skip one of his city’s signature celebrations because the event organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs.
De Blasio will become the first mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march along Fifth Avenue.
‘‘I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,’’ said de Blasio on Tuesday during an unrelated press conference at City Hall. ‘‘But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.’’
The parade, a tradition that predates the city itself, draws more than 1 million people each March 17 to line one of Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfares to watch about 200,000 participants. It has long been a mandatory stop on the city’s political trail, and will include marching bands, traditional Irish dancers, and thousands of uniformed city workers.
Since the 1990s, the event’s ban on pro-gay signs has spurred protests and litigation and led to the creation of an alternative, gay-friendly St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens. In recent years, several elected officials — including de Blasio when he was public advocate — attended the inclusive parade and boycotted the traditional parade.
Though de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage rights, he still marched in the Fifth Avenue parade all 12 years he was in office. Rudolph Giuliani also participated every year he was mayor.
The parade dates from 1762, more than a century before the five boroughs linked to form New York City.