BOSTON – A group representing gay veterans says it was denied entry to Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, reigniting a tense issue that had seemingly been resolved and sparking promises of a boycott from the mayor and other officials.
OUTVETS, a group that represents US veterans who identify LGBTQ, had participated in the past two South Boston parades.
But late Tuesday, the group said that it had been rejected from this year’s version by the local Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade. CNN reached out to the council several times on Wednesday, but got no immediate response.
“The Council did not give a clear reason, but, given the tenor of the Council’s deliberations, one can assume it’s because we are LGBTQ,” OUTVETS wrote on Facebook. “This is a sad day for the LGBTQ community and for veterans of all backgrounds.”
“We served our country with honor and distinction,” OUTVETS added. “But even after bringing honor to this parade, this community, and to all those who have served, we fight every day to be treated with the basic dignity that comes with service to country.”
The Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston had for years banned gay groups from participating in the parade, before finally allowing them to participate in 2015. The council voted 9-4 to keep the group out of the March 19 parade, CNN affiliate WCVB said.
The decision prompted a fierce backlash and promises of a boycott from a number of prominent local officials. Mayor Martin Walsh said he will not march in the parade unless the issue was resolved, and encouraged others to boycott it as well.
“I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form. We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city,” Walsh said on Facebook.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, said he would “probably” not attend if OUTVETS was not allowed to march.
“The idea that we would restrict the opportunity for men and women who put on that uniform, knowing full well they could put themselves in harm’s way, and deny them an opportunity to march in a parade that’s about celebrating veterans doesn’t make any sense to me,” Baker said, according to WCVB.
“If veteran’s groups aren’t allowed to march in that parade for whatever reason, then I’ll probably do something else,” Baker said.
US Rep. Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who has previously marched with OUTVETS, said the decision was “outrageous and disgraceful” and said he, too, would boycott.
Dan Magoon, Massachusetts Fallen Heroes executive director, said he was resigning as chief marshal of the parade, CNN affiliate WBZ reports.
LGBTQ groups have a lengthy and tense history with the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade.
In 1992, the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) requested to march in the storied parade, but the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council denied their application.
GLIB sued, claiming that the decision was a form of illegal discrimination. The case eventually reached the US Supreme Court, which ruled against GLIB in 1995.
Still, the controversy led the city to pull public funds from the parade, and longtime Mayor Tom Menino boycotted the parade for two decades.
It took until 2015 for the Council to allow an LGBT group to participate. That year, OUTVETS marched for the first time, and Walsh became the first active Boston mayor to participate in the parade in years.