After Dispute, LGBT Marchers to Appear at St. Patrick’s Parade in Boston

After yet another dispute, LGBT marchers will be appearing in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Parade tomorrow. But this latest incident revealed how exclusive policies for many years may have permanently undercut the parade.


OUTVETS marching in 2016

The Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade in South Boston each year, voted two weeks ago to ban a group of LGBT veterans from marching, in part because the group included a rainbow flag on its sign. The Council had allowed the group to march in 2015 and 2016.

But three days after the decision to exclude the group, the Council reversed itself and allowed the group to march, reported The Boston Globe:

“OUTVETS accepted the invitation Friday night. ‘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,’ the group said in a statement.

“The war veterans council on Friday night agreed, by a vote of 11 to 0, to invite OUTVETS to the parade with no restrictions on the display of the rainbow flag, according to US Representative Stephen Lynch.”

That reversal came following sharp criticism from local politicians, civic leaders, and fellow veterans. Among others, the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts’ governor, and the state’s junior Senator all said they would not march unless OUTVETS was welcomed. Corporate sponsors also threatened to withdraw funding if the group remained banned.

Many of the public figures and sponsors threatening a boycott this year only began participating in 2015 when parade organizers allowed OUTVETS to march for the first time. Despite protests from one Catholic school and the Knights of Columbus, most Bostonians assumed 2015 would be the end of controversies about the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

But, even with the ban on OUTVETS now reversed, some public figures have said they will not march, and veterans are questioning their participation in the Allied War Veterans Council.

Coleman Nee, former Secretary of Massachusetts’s Department of Veteran Services, said “LGBTQ Americans have been serving this nation in uniform since General Washington’s army forced the British troops out of Boston.” State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who represents South Boston, told the Globe:

“‘It is unacceptable to exclude anyone in our community. But the council has chosen to exclude the best of us: Veterans who have bravely served our country and put their lives on the line for our freedoms. . . I know this community does not share these ignorant beliefs. It is shameful that nine individuals would deny veterans the opportunity to march in a parade.'”

Two veterans communities in Boston, the Michael J. Perkins American Legion Post and the Thomas J. Fitzgerald Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, have left the Council. The Perkins Post said the Council, which now includes  non-veterans’ groups as well, should no longer identify itself as a veterans group “to prevent destroying the community good will that we and other South Boston veterans posts have worked hard to achieve.”

A generational shift appears to be at work here, with younger veterans far less tolerant of exclusion. Representative Lynch said younger veterans are “committed to getting together and changing the way [the group] operates so we don’t have this every single year.”

It’s time to put parade-related controversies behind us, once and for all. In yesterday’s post, activist Irish gay Brendan Fay affirmed that it is possible for one to be LGBT and Irish, just as one can be LGBT and Catholic. And exclusion is neither a Catholic nor an Irish value. In the spirit of Catholicism’s long tradition of social justice — and perhaps most pertinent here, the Irish charism of unbounded and warm hospitality — henceforth, parades should be organized around the Gospel principle that all are welcome.

New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis, is scheduled for April 28-30, 2017, Chicago, Illinois. Plenary speakers:  Lisa Fullam, Leslie Griffin, Rev. Bryan Massingale, Frank Mugisha. Prayer leaders:  Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv.  Pre-Symposium Retreat Leader:  Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS.  For more information and to register, visit

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of controversies around St. Patrick’s Day parades, please click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 18, 2017

0 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    As a lifelong Massachusetts resident, I’m definitely proud of our state leadership — including our REPUBLICAN governor — for doing the right thing, by telling the anti-GLBT bigots: “If you people want to be hateful jerks, you can be jerks on your own time…but not on ours. We are not going to march in support of your bigotry”. The wonder and the amazement to me is that, in this contemporary day and age, it’s still so hard for some people — including people who consider themselves to be deeply religious, and even devout Catholics (like the Knights of Columbus) — to take on board a message of openness and welcome to ALL of our fellow human beings. What part of Jesus’ ultimate message: “Love one another, as I have loved you”, do they refuse to accept? Unfortunately, there’s a cultural “back story” as well. A whole lot of my classmates at Holy Cross, back in the mid-1960s, were Irish kids from “Southie” (i.e., South Boston) — and they were very defiantly and stubbornly racist. They (and/or their parents) fought tooth-and-claw against court-mandated school desegregation. Google “Louise Day Hicks” — a Boston City Counselor — for a particularly grievous exemplification of outright racism.and bigotry among the Boston Irish. Things appear finally to have changed, especially among the younger generation — but the old diehards, like the K. of C., are still refusing to internalize the message. What Would Jesus Say? What Would Jesus DO?

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    It is interesting that in Washington, DC, three years ago the DC LGBT Center and Dignity/ Washington were allowed to march in the DC St. Partick’s Day parade with no controversy the first time they requested to march and both were well received by the crowd. If fact this year Dignity/Washington was awarded the prize for best novelty group (their category as in not a band, dancing unit, etc.) America works when we play and celebrate together as a community.

  3. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:

    As a gay man, this story is particularly poignant to me. I am a retired U S Navy retired dental officer with twenty-six years of honorable service. I served before the era of DADT. For that reason, it was essential for me to remain closeted for my entire career. I shall march spiritually with OUTVETS.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *