Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade Reverses Ban On LGBTQ Group

Parade organizers buckled after a fierce backlash.

Organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade succumbed to mounting political and financial pressure Friday and offered a slot in the event to an LGBTQ group of military veterans it had rejected earlier in the week. 

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council voted during an emergency meeting to reverse its previous decision to exclude the veterans group OUTVETS. The council now says the group of gay and trans military veterans may join the March 19 festivities. 

Organizers of the parade faced swift condemnation after voting on Tuesday to refuse to allow OUTVETS to participate in the parade after two years of allowing LGBTQ groups to be included. Some of the state’s most prominent figures, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), bailed on the event. Corporate sponsors, like Stop & Shop supermarkets, backed out, too. 

An attorney for OUTVETS told HuffPost that council members had objected to vets displaying the gay pride flag. 

“It’s our identity. You telling us to remove a rainbow is the same as telling us ‘Don’t be gay,’” said the attorney, Deedee Edmondson. “They’re saying, ‘You’ve got to look like us.’”

Parade organizers didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The death last year of Brian Mahoney, the head of the the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, may have allowed renewed intolerance, according to Edmondson. Mahoney had been an outspoken supporter of OUTVETS.

“These people are an embarrassment to our city,” Edmondson said of parade organizers. 

The annual parade through Boston’s Irish-American neighborhood has only in the last two years included LGBTQ groups. OUTVETS in 2015 became one of the first two queer groups to march.

A 1995 Supreme Court decision famously upheld Boston parade organizers’ ban on gay and lesbian organizations.