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Gay Vietnamese protest exclusion from annual New Year’s ‘Tet’ parade

Gay Vietnamese protest exclusion from annual New Year’s ‘Tet’ parade

WESTMINSTER, Calif. — A group of gay Vietnamese Americans and their supporters in Southern California’s Orange County are asking to be allowed to participate in this weekend’s Tet parade in celebration of the Vietnamese New Year.

Holding signs that proclaimed “Gay rights are human rights,” the group demonstrated Monday afternoon outside the law office of Vietnamese-American community leader attorney Neil Nguyen — one of the organizers of the Tet parade — to protest being excluded from the annual parade.

Members of the local Vietnamese LGBT community march in the 2010 parade.

Natalie Newton, who spearheaded Monday’s demonstration, told the Orange County Register that members of the local Vietnamese LGBT community and their attorneys met with parade organizers earlier in the day, and it was suggested that they host their own parade, rather than be part of the larger event.

“We have to weigh the interests of the community with the interests of the group,” said Ha Son Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California. “We respect their choice, but we want to promote our Vietnamese traditions.”

“They said that if we participate, other groups will pull out,” said Tuan Trong Le, a Rowland Heights resident and co-founder of the Gay Vietnamese Alliance. “They deny our human rights, which they’ve been fighting for all these years. What about us? We’re not humans?” Le said.

The annual parade has been hosted by the city of Westminster, but this year, due to a lack of funding, the city turned over the responsibility of the parade to a community coalition, which includes the Vietnamese Interfaith Council in America.

That council has boycotted the parade for the past three years because of the gay groups’ previous participation.

Attorneys for the LGBT groups said they hope to resolve the issue without going to court, but if necessary, they will file suit.

“In this day and age, there’s no reason to exclude this group, other than sheer discrimination,” said Joe Shaw, an openly gay city councilman from neighboring Huntington Beach. “They deserve to have a seat at the table.”

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