Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh has refused to participate in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade because parade organizers will not permit an openly gay group of veterans to march under a separate banner that identifies them by their sexual orientation.
In a statement, Walsh said:
The St. Patrick’s Day parade was born out of the celebration of Evacuation Day, a day set aside to recognize and honor our military and those brave Americans who have banded together for the sake of freedom. And so much of our Irish history has been shaped by the fight against oppression.
I’m disappointed that this year, I will be unable to participate in the parade. As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city. Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible.
However, as the Associated Press reports, lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said gay people are not prohibited from marching. However, the parade, he said, should not be turned into a demonstration for a particular group.
According to Boston.com, Walsh attempted to reach a compromise between parade organizers and the openly gay veterans’ group. MassEquality, a gay rights advocacy group, was also involved in the negotiations.
In response to Walsh’s refusal to participate in the parade, MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini issued the following statement:
MassEquality is pleased that Mayor Walsh has kept his promise to sit out the 2014 South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade since parade organizers continue to ban LGBT groups from marching openly.
It can be difficult for people who are not LGBT to understand how important it is for LGBT people to be able to be open and honest about who they are and how wounding it can be to be asked to be not too out. MassEquality had hoped that a small group of LGBT veterans that we work with would have been able to march behind their standard – a rainbow flag – and a banner identifying them as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans associated with MassEquality. That hope was informed by what many GLIB marchers told us would begin some healing of the wounds created by the harassment and violence they experienced when they marched openly decades ago.
As of this morning, parade organizers were quoted in the media continuing to insist that LGBT marchers hide their sexual orientation. No other group is asked to march without a banner and their standard – not the police, firefighters, or the Irish. A double standard is the status quo and does not represent progress.
While we are disappointed that we did not get to march this year as we had hoped, we thank the Mayor for championing full inclusion all the way until the end. We are encouraged by today’s small step forward with the inclusion of a “diversity” float, and we hope that it is a sign that next year applications from LGBT groups, like MassEquality, that wish to join the celebration of Irish heritage and the service and sacrifice of veterans, will be accepted on their own merits and the decades long ban can finally be lifted.
As Breitbart News’s Robert Wilde reported Saturday, Sam Adams Beer will also be boycotting the parade, which is sponsored by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council.
In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council had a constitutional right to exclude marchers whose message they reject, including those who wish to openly identify themselves as LGBT Irish-Americans.