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.
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.
“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 www.Symposium2017.org.
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