Gay veteran group banned from Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade
In 2015, LGBT+ veterans were allowed to march in Boston's iconic St. Patrick's Day Parade for the first time. The decision to include gay and lesbian vets had not been an easy one nor quick in coming. For over 25 years, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council had banned those who were not heterosexual from the parade, even winning a Supreme Court case in 1995 which allowed them to continue discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
When the council reversed their decision — in a 5-4 vote — it was a clear sign of progress. But now, a week before this year's parade hits the streets, the group has banned the LGBT+ community from the event once again.
The Washington Post reports that OutVets, one of the two LGBT+ groups that has been marching for the past two years has been unceremoniously dropped from the festivities after a 9-4 vote of the council on Tuesday. The reason behind the decision to switch course? According to the council, it was OutVets' logo that caused the problem. Because the group's insignia features "a small rainbow patch," the parade organizers decided that the group's message was less about inclusion and more about "gay sexuality," which made the group ineligible to participate.
The council offered OutVets a chance to march if they removed the rainbow from their logo, but the group demurred, pointing out that if their rainbow was an indicator of homosexual sex (it isn't, but people who oppose LGBT rights have a tendency to conflate sexual orientation with actual sexual activity), then all rainbows present at the parade would need to be removed in order to cut out the connotation.
The backlash has been fast and furious, with government officials condemning the council's refusal to allow OutVets to participate. Some are already calling for protest and boycott.
Parade Grand Marshal Dan Magoon, an Army veteran and founder of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, resigned and told the council in a statement that participating in a parade that excluded OutVets "does not coincide with the work I do advocating for all veterans," reported local blog Universal Hub.
"The freedoms that we possess to hold such an event is due to the men and women who have spilled their blood in defense to this great nation, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or who they share relations with," Magoon wrote.
Other voices, including those of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, have joined the call for the council to change its mind, with Walsh openly condemning the decision as discrimination and stating his refusal to participate in the event as long as it continues to exclude those who served our country on the basis of their sexual orientation.
"We are one Boston," he wrote in a statement, "which means we are a fully inclusive city. I will not be marching in the parade unless this is resolved. Anyone who values what our city stands for should do the same."
The council will meet again on Friday to discuss their vote and make a final decision on the exclusion, which has already been referred to as "turning back the clock on equality," by one council member, a veteran himself. If the council chooses to let their decision stand, they can expect the city of Boston to fight back and for corporate sponsorships to be pulled from the event.