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Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade Organizer To Reconsider Ban On Gay Veterans Group

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., (center without hat) marches with members of OutVets, a group of LGBTQ military veterans, during the 2015 St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston.
Steven Senne

In Boston, the organizers of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade say they are reconsidering a decision to ban a group for gay veterans, following a public backlash.

The annual South Boston Parade on St. Patrick's Day is a big deal for a lot of people in the city. Local and state politicians turn out. The local cable network generally carries it live.

For the past two years, members of the have marched in the parade.

But on Wednesday, the group announced on its Facebook page that OutVets will not be allowed to march this year, after the parade's organizer, the Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston, voted 9-4 earlier this week to exclude OutVets, which is group of gay and transgender military veterans.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh immediately said he would not attend the March 19 parade unless the council reversed course.

"I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form," he said in a statement.

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced that he also wouldn't attend the parade, as did Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, who served four tours of duty in Iraq, and the parade's chief marshal, Dan Magoon, the executive director of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, according to The Boston Globe.

Now, the parade council says it will reconsider its decision and has scheduled a new vote for Friday.

Tim Duross, one of the parade organizers, told the Boston Herald that the group's rejection "is not 'official.' "

"I would like to see everyone in the parade," Duross told the Herald, and explained that the vote had hinged on the belief that OutVets had violated parade rules he said bar the "portrayal of sexuality" when they carried a banner with their logo, which includes a rainbow.

Bryan Bishop, who founded OutVets, told The New York Times, "My jaw just dropped on the floor," when he learned the group's logo was too sexual for the parade.

"They said people felt that rainbows represent the gay community," Bishop told the newspaper. "I told them if that's the case, then every picture of a rainbow in the parade that leads to a pot of gold needs to be removed."

Gay rights groups have fought a similar fight in New York City in recent years, as we have reported. Mayor Bill DeBlasio boycotted the city's St. Patrick's Day parade for two years, but returned last year after an Irish LGBT group was allowed to march.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
Doreen McCallister
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