LGBT veterans to march during St. Patrick’s Day parade
Outvets, a group composed of LGBT veterans, will be allowed to march during Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade after organizers backtracked on barring them from participating.
OutVets had said on Friday night that they will accept the invitation to march on March 19.
The issue began when the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council voted to bar OutVets from the event, which drew strong condemnation from a number of high-profile politician invited to the parade.
Some of them had said they would not march if the gay veterans won’t be allowed to join, while some sponsors decided to back out from the event.
LGBT veterans barred from marching
Prior to this, OutVets had been allowed to march in the past two years of the parade. They were first allowed to join in 2015 after previous years of resistance by parade organizers.
For this year, the Council had voted last Tuesday not to allow the gay veterans to march if they would display their rainbow symbols. The vets could only join the parade if they hid the rainbow flag on their banner and jackets.
In its statement defending their vote last Thursday, they said: “The council is accepting of all people and organizations, but it will not permit messages that conflict with the overall theme of the parade.”
But the Council’s decision to allow OutVet to march was announced last Friday on the parade’s Twitter account, stating that they had signed an “acceptance letter” that would allow the gay vets to join.
“I decided this is a wrong that has to be corrected,” said Tim Duross, the parade’s lead organizer, told WHDH-TV.
The LGBT veterans group said on their acceptance of the invitation: “We look forward to marching proudly on March 19 and honoring the service and sacrifice of those brave men and women who have sacrificed for our country.”
Politicians decry decision to bar LGBT veterans
When the Council decision was first announced, a number of people and groups raised a furor.
OutVets executive director Bryan Bishop said in reaction to the Council’s decision: “It infuriates me to look at the veterans that I know, gay and straight, who have served this country with valor and honor and distinction, and just because you’re a veteran who happens to be gay your service is somehow less than someone who is not of the LGBT community or someone who’s not gay.”
Meanwhile, Governor Charlie Baker said the decision “doesn’t make any sense” to exclude gay veterans”. He told reporters: “If veterans’ groups aren’t allowed to march in that parade for whatever reason, then I’ll probably do something else.”
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said: “I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form. I will not be marching in the parade unless this is resolved. Anyone who values what our city stands for should do the same.”
Likewise, Dan Magoon, the executive director of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, had quit his position as the parade’s chief marshal in reaction to the decision.
Michael Flaherty, a Boston city councilor, was more blunt: “Whoever voted for this is a nitwit.”
“We all believed we’d moved beyond a time when the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was used as an occasion to exclude people, in this case veterans, from our community just because of who they are or who they love,” United States Senator Edward J. Markey said in a statement boycotting the parade.
Among the sponsors of the parade that backed out was supermarket Stop & Shop while beer company Anheuser-Busch said they were “evaluating” their participation.