St. Patrick’s parade organizers to revisit gay veterans ban

  • OutVets founder Bryan Bishop wears the logo of his group while speaking with a reporter at his house in Boston, Friday, March 10, 2017. The organizers of Boston's embattled St. Patrick's Day parade have scheduled an emergency meeting to reconsider their vote to shut out the gay veterans group. This week's decision to bar OutVets from marching drew immediate condemnation from high-profile politicians and stirred up a furor on social media. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • OutVets founder Bryan Bishop poses in his house in Boston Friday. The organizers of Boston's embattled St. Patrick's Day parade have scheduled an emergency meeting to reconsider their vote to shut out the gay veterans group. This week's decision to bar OutVets from marching drew immediate condemnation from high-profile politicians and stirred up a furor on social media. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • Members of OutVets, a group of gay military veterans, march in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston's South Boston neighborhood March 20, 2016. AP FILE PHOTO

Associated Press
Published: 3/10/2017 9:43:13 PM

BOSTON — The executive director of a group of gay veterans barred from marching in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade said Friday they were told it was because of their rainbow symbols.

Bryan Bishop, of OutVets, said the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council offered to allow the group to march if its members did not display the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, which is on their banner and their jackets.

The group said no.

“I almost fell out of the chair at that point, said, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Bishop said.

He said OutVets has displayed the rainbow at the parade the last two years.

“It infuriates me to look at the veterans that I know, gay and straight, who have served this country with valor and honor and distinction, and just because you’re a veteran who happens to be gay your service is somehow less than someone who is not of the LGBT community or someone who’s not gay,” he said.

Another veterans group, Veterans for Peace, said it also had been denied permission to participate. That group has been trying unsuccessfully for several years to march.

The organizers were expected to meet Friday to reconsider their vote to bar OutVets.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council’s vote drew immediate condemnation from high-profile politicians, caused some sponsors to back out and stirred up a furor on social media.

Ed Flynn, a member of the council who voted to allow OutVets to march, said he hoped there would be a meeting Friday to reconsider the decision, although the time and place had not been made public.

OutVets was first allowed to participate in the parade in 2015, in what was seen as a groundbreaking decision after parade organizers had, for decades, resisted the inclusion of gay groups. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1995 upheld the council’s right to bar gay groups on free speech grounds.

The council said in a statement Thursday its decision had been misinterpreted.

“The council is accepting of all people and organizations, but it will not permit messages that conflict with the overall theme of the parade,” the statement said.

OutVets also was late in submitting its application, the council said.

The Allied War Veterans Council’s decision has resulted in backlash from other veterans’ organizations.

The council is made up of representatives from several South Boston American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

The Michael J. Perkins American Legion Post said it had withdrawn from the council.

The Perkins post in a statement on its Facebook page didn’t mention the OutVets decision but said it decided to withdraw because “recent efforts by several non-veteran parade volunteers to guide decision making has resulted in the subversion of the council as an organization being led by veterans.”

Another former member of the council, the Thomas J. Fitzgerald VFW Post, assailed the council’s decision to bar OutVets.

The Fitzgerald post withdrew from the council last year over the decision to bar Veterans for Peace.


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