In an ongoing discussion about the role of openly gay groups in the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh met with the parade’s organizers Sunday to find a solution that will provide an inclusive and enjoyable environment for all parties involved in this year’s parade.
Walsh, born to Irish immigrants, announced Wednesday that he would boycott this year’s parade, set for March 16, if gay groups were excluded from the parade’s festivities. This comment led to a series of meetings with parade organizers, members of the LGBT community and representatives from MassEquality, an anti-discrimination advocacy group that submitted an application for a gay veterans group to participate in the parade.
“The conversation that took place in my office [Sunday night], and the conversations about diversity and inclusion that are taking place in our neighborhoods — and across our country — make our communities stronger,” he said in a statementMonday. “The meeting was a positive one, and discussions regarding this year’s parade continue. All parties remain optimistic that a solution can be reached to allow for an inclusive celebration.”
Organizers of the parade have been under fire for nearly two decades for their participation code of conduct, one that is often seen as banning gay people from the festivities. Phil Wuschke, the parade’s organizer, said this could not be further from the truth.
“We have no problem with gays participating,” he said. “We just don’t want to turn this into a demonstration of some kind. It’s a day of celebration, not demonstration. We’re not out to send a message for gay rights. This is a military-themed parade. The message for the parade is keeping it about St. Patrick’s Day, keeping it about Southie.”
The MassEquality veterans group will be allowed to march in the parade with signs that say “MassEquality” or “Veterans, A Division of MassEquality,” Wuschke said.
“We met with Mayor Walsh and we had a good conversation,” he said. “We told him if he had a military group that just so happened to be gay that would be fine. St. Patrick’s Day is a big part of our history, that’s what we’re celebrating here. We’re celebrating the military history of this day.”
Kara Coredini, executive director of MassEquality, said in a Monday press release that their group would only march in the parade if they are able to do so “openly and honestly.”
“No agreement was reached, but the conversation is ongoing,” she said in the release. “We hope that the Parade organizers will see exclusion as not only unfair, but harmful and not aligned with the many fair-minded and inclusive Bostonians — Irish or not — who participate in and enjoy this annual celebration of a community that is so vital to the city of Boston.”
Several residents said the exclusion of LGBT groups in the St. Patrick’s Day parade should not be acceptable in Boston or anywhere else.
Shirley Goldinger, 54, of Brighton, said she works with young gay and transgender people, and she understands why this is such a hot button issue.
“There is a point where we have to break with the issue of being gay or transgender,” she said. “It comes down to being a matter of human rights. No one should be told that what or who they are is not okay.”
Brian Baccaro, 30, of Brighton, said all groups participating in the parade should represent the significance of St. Patrick’s Day, but beyond that, no group should be excluded for their sexual orientation.
“It seems irrelevant,” he said. “There shouldn’t be anything against [gay groups marching in the parade]. As long as there’s something else pertaining to the parade, I don’t see a problem with it.”
Kimberly Kolter, 35, of Fenway, said the inclusion of LGBT groups in the parade is a matter of acceptance.
“I support diversity and acceptance of all people,” she said. “There should be no depreciation of other people simply because they choose to live another lifestyle.”