Crisis meeting on whether gays will march in Boston parade
Historic meeting hosted by Mayor Walsh tries to resolve issues
By Patrick Counihan
An historic meeting between organizers of South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and gay community leaders has failed to reach an agreement that will allow gay to march but the sides are still talking.
The landmark conference was held in the office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh late on Sunday night but the Boston Herald reports that no deal was reached.
The report says the parade’s organizers have objected to the group’s wearing T-shirts or holding signs that include the word gay or refer to sexual orientation because they say it does not fit with the parade’s Irish and military themes.
Some in the gay community are outraged by suggestions the group march without identifying itself as gay but walk under the MassEquality banner.
The paper says the prohibition has been compared to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, the US military policy repealed in 2010.
Mayor Walsh has led the moves to end the two-decade ban on gay groups.
He chaired the meeting in City Hall with parade organizers, gay community leaders and US Representative Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston.
Efforts were made to provide a mechanism in which gay marchers are able to identify themselves in a manner acceptable to organizers, perhaps with a rainbow or other symbol.
MassEquality’s executive director Kara S. Coredini told the paper: “We want to enable LGBT people to march openly in the parade.
“The conversations we are having are figuring out how LGBT people are going to be able to identify themselves as LGBT people.”
Mayor Walsh has marched in the parade in the past but has now vowed to use his influence to end the ban.
Parade organizers have also said that their concessions have had repercussions.
The report says a band from a small central Massachusetts school that has participated in the parade for more than two decades has threatened to pull out if MassEquality is allowed to march. Other bands have called organizers inquiring whether gay groups will participate.
Tim Duross, one of the parade coordinators, said: “I think we’ve given our share; we’ve compromised. I think they need to compromise a little bit, too.”
Coredini added: “I really applaud the parade organizers for coming to the table with us to have this conversation.
“They are under a lot of pressure from their constituency; we’re under a lot of pressure from our constituency. Where we land, I can’t predict.”
Mayor Walsh is optimistic the breakthrough meeting can lead to a resolution in time for the parade on March 16th.
He said: “It was a very positive discussion. It was great to have everybody face to face. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to announce something in the next couple of days.”
However Brother Thomas Dalton, principal of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in the town of Harvard which is threatening to boycott the parade, is not in favor.
He said the school was pulling its band and float because it ‘does not condone and will not appear to condone the homosexual lifestyle’.
The LGBT community is also in turmoil over the parade.
Arline Isaacson, a champion of same-sex marriage and lobbyist for the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus said: “There’s a lot of tumult in the gay community.
“There’s been a lot of ire from the LGBT community about the compromise from the other day. The gag order. I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls from people sayings it’s offensive, it’s untenable, it’s analogous to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ”