NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Manhattan’s iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade will allow a second gay group to march next year, organizers announced Tuesday.

The parade’s Board of Directors has voted to invite the Lavender & Green Alliance, an Irish gay group, to march under its own banner. It joins Out@NBCUniversal, which has been invited to return after this year becoming the first LGBT group to participate in the event.

“Everybody knows it’s been such a long road getting here,” Brendan Fay, who founded the Lavender & Green Alliance in 1994, told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

“We are transformed from being cultural outsiders to becoming insiders in our own Irish community.”

Before this year, the 253-year-old parade had a rule banning gay groups from marching under their own banners, which led to increasing protests over the years. As a result, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have boycotted the event the past two years, and in 2014 some sponsors pulled out.

Some gay rights activists called the parade’s invitation to a single group in 2015 a publicity stunt aimed at bringing back its sponsors.

The parade board’s longtime chairman, John Dunleavy, was replaced this summer after fighting vigorously to prevent gay groups from marching. New Chairman John Lahey was instrumental in arranging for Out@NBCUniversal to join the 2015 parade.

Emmaia Gelman with the group Irish Queers said there’s still more openness to achieve, but she said she’s “relieved and glad” for the Lavender & Green Alliance.

“It’s not a surprise that they didn’t invite Irish Queers because we’ve been vocal and disrupting the parades for 25 years.”

For Fay, it is especially fitting. His fight ends in the same year the Irish people voted to legalize gay marriage.

“I think it’s going to be one of the most joyous St. Patrick’s parades that this city has seen,” he said.

The board also voted to renew its broadcast contract with WNBC-TV. Parade organizers were reportedly shopping around the TV rights under Dunleavy because NBC insisted it include a gay organization.

Next year’s parade will mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, considered the birth of Irish independence.

“We are working with the government of Ireland in this anniversary year to teach our young people the lessons of sacrifice and heroism, of love and tolerance, embodied in the Irish spirit,” Lahey said in a news release.

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