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Mayor skips Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade over exclusion of gay vets

Sunday, March 16, 2014
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BOSTON — Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is skipping the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday because organizers are excluding a group of gay veterans.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh

Walsh said in an email on Sunday he’s disappointed he will not take part in the Sunday event because parade plans prevent all Boston residents from participating fully.

“As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city. Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible,” said Walsh.

Walsh and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch tried to broker a deal with parade organizers — the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council — that would have allowed a gay veterans group to march, but the negotiations broke down. The mayor said the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations honor Irish history that he says has been shaped by the fight against oppression.

While lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said gay people are not prohibited from marching, LGBT advocacy group MassEquality noted that parade organizers insisted that LGBT marchers hide their sexual orientation.

“It can be difficult for people who are not LGBT to understand how important it is for LGBT people to be able to be open and honest about who they are and how wounding it can be to be asked to be not too out,” said Kara Coredini, Executive Director of MassEquality, in a statement on Sunday.

“[We] had hoped that a small group of LGBT veterans that we work with would have been able to march behind their standard – a rainbow flag – and a banner identifying them as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans associated with MassEquality. No other group is asked to march without a banner and their standard – not the police, firefighters, or the Irish. A double standard is the status quo and does not represent progress,” said Coredini.

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Wuschke said organizers did not want the parade to turn into a demonstration for a particular group.

On Friday, Boston Beer Co., the maker of Sam Adams beer, announced it was withdrawing its sponsorship of Boston parade over exclusion of the gay group.

A similar scenario has played out in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio will skip Monday’s parade because organizers refuse to let gay participants carry signs displaying their LGBT pride, prompting Heineken to pull its sponsorship of the event.

The Boston parade is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the New York City parade is Monday at 11 a.m. EDT.

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