An LGBT veterans group will march in the 2015 South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade.
By a 5 – 4 vote the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade committee has approved an application to march from the group OutVets, which celebrates military veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
This will mark the first time an openly LGBT contingent has marched in the Boston parade. OutVets, which has over 50 members, will march behind a blue banner with five white stars representing the branches of the military, and six vertical rainbow stripes, the AP reports.
Last year, the organizing committee participated in negotiations with the state-wide advocacy group MassEquality, which wanted to join the parade under their own banner. When an agreement could not be reached, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh boycotted the parade and at the last minute Sam Adams withdrew their sponsorship.
The South Boston parade is run by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the same group that won the 1995 Supreme Court case Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston. At the time, the court unanimously ruled that the parade was a private event and, thus, the parade organizers had the right to exclude groups that proclaimed messages they reject.
OutVets founder Bryan Bishop, who works as chief of staff in the Boston’s Veteran Services department, addressed the council before their vote.
“I think it’s very significant,” he told the Boston Globe. While noting that OutVets does not have a political or social agenda he added “Ensuring that there is 100% inclusivity is important.”
Veterans Council commander Brian Mahoney told the AP that OutVets were welcomed because of their military service, which he said “conforms to the tenets of the parade.”
"The parade is devoted to honoring the service of veterans. It's is our aim to honor that service and the history of the Irish Catholics in Boston,” he explained. “Anything that detracts from that is verboten."
Mayor Walsh’s press secretary Kate Norton issued a statement that said “We’re very pleased to hear that OUTVETS will be marching in this year’s parade. Mayor Walsh has been advocating for an inclusive parade for quite some time. We’re thrilled to hear that the South Boston Allied Veterans have decided to make the 2015 parade an inclusive event.”
The Boston parade’s historic decision comes on the heels of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade committee’s September announcement that an LGBT group affiliated with NBC, the parade’s official broadcaster, will march in the 2015 parade.