Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade Shuts Out LGBT Marchers
Left: Spectators react to the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston during their appearance in South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1993.
Organizers of Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade have officially revoked their invitation to the LGBT organization that had been working to include LGBT veterans and allies in the parade.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, said they were misled by the LGBT Veterans of Equality, which is a subgroup of MassEquality. Initially, the LGBT veterans' group was permitted to march after their application was rejected because of the parade's "no sexual orientation rule."
"This application was conditionally approved as submitted with the understanding that these 20 veterans can march, but no sexual orientation would be displayed, and the group would comply with our standard 'code of conduct' followed by all marching units in this parade," the organizers said in the statement.
Over the weekend, MassEquality executive director Kara Coredini said the decision was historic, since LGBT groups had been banned from the parade for decades. But, Coredini said the prohibition on statements regarding LGBT rights — like t-shirts or rainbow flags — was a sticking point.
Then, at a closed-door meeting at City Hall, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council said there were not 20 veterans involved with the LGBT Veterans of Equality. Instead they claim there was only one veteran plus several civilian supporters, who would march, so the organizers felt that MassEquality was using the guise of LGBT veterans to march in the parade under false pretenses.
"It is our intention to keep this parade a family-friendly event," the statement said. "We will not allow any group to damage the integrity of this historic event, or our reputation as a safe and fun filled day for all."
On Wednesday, Coredini of MassEquality said her organization had, in fact, worked with numerous veterans to end the military's ban on openly gay service members, "and those same veterans would have been proud to represent the end of the parade’s 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy."
"We know from experience that change comes through conversation and dialogue," Coredini said. "We were encouraged to have an historic opportunity to meet face-to-face with parade organizers to discuss a contingent involving LGBT veterans, and we did so with open hearts and open minds."
She also thanked Mayor Walsh for working on the discussion, but ultimately, she said she was disappointed the arrangement could not work.
"Throughout this process, we have heard from many people with diverse perspectives about this Parade," she said. "Stories from those who marched openly and at great personal risk in this very Parade decades ago touched us deeply. LGBT people should never have to silence who they are to be safe, to be equal, or to celebrate other parts of their identities."