Exactly three months from today, St. Patrick’s Day in Boston will be a little more bright and gay with the inclusion of an explicitly LGBT group in that city’s parade for the first time.
A participation application was filed by OUTVETS, a new group highlighting LGBT veterans. It was narrowly approved by the Allied War Veterans Council in a 5-4 vote. OUTVETS was established this fall “as a nonpolitical outfit created to honor the contributions and sacrifices of LGBT veterans,” according to the Boston Globe, and welcomes all.
The vote reverses a long-standing ban on gay participants, a Veterans Council policy which was upheld in a 1992 US Supreme Court decision that said the right to discriminate was protected by the First Amendment. However, recent pressures like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s refusal to participate in the 2014 parade and the pulling of major beer sponsorships may have given parade organizers pause.
Veterans Council commander Brian Mahoney affirmed the decision in an interview with the Globe:
” ‘To other people, it will be a big thing…But to us, it’s a group of veterans that wanted to march and deserved to be honored…We weren’t thrilled last year that the mayor didn’t march…But we always kept open a courteous conversation.’ “
The Globe also noted that though OUTVOTE is the first explicitly LGBT group to march, two contingents last year were LGBT-themed while ostensibly marching as community groups from South Boston.
GLAAD’s blog also noted that this decision comes the same year as changes in New York’s parade are occuring:
“As of September, however, organizers of the NYC event announced that for the first time in its 253-year history, an LGBT organization would be allowed to participate in the parade. The new policy will go into effect in 2015 with OUT@NBCUniversal, a group for LGBT employees with the broadcast company.”
In recent years, these St. Patrick’s Day parades and other Catholic-affiliated civic events have drawn increased attention for their inclusion or lack thereof of LGBT representation. It is good to see parade organizers recognizing what the vast majority of American Catholics know: that people of all gender identities and sexual orientations should be fully welcomed and accepted.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the parade controversies, click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry