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St. Patrick's Day Parade Planners to Reconsider Gay Veterans Ban

Organizers of the Boston parade have scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday to reconsider their vote to bar a gay veterans group from participating.
An Inclusive St. Patrick's Day Parade
Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton marches with OUTVETS, a non-profit that highlights the rights and contributions of LGBTQ veterans, active service members and their families in South Boston's famed St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 15, 2015.Dina Rudick / Boston Globe via Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

BOSTON — The organizers of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade have scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday to reconsider their vote to bar a gay veterans group from participating.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, and representatives of OutVets met Wednesday, said Ed Flynn, a council member who voted to allow the gay veterans' group to march.

Flynn is the only member of the council to comment publicly. Emails and telephone calls to the council's leadership have gone unanswered.

"I remain hopeful that my colleagues on the council will correct this situation and join me in voting for inclusion" at Friday's meeting, said Flynn, a 25-year Navy veteran. "If this vote does not affirm their right to march in the parade, I will not be marching."

OutVets Executive Director Bryan Bishop says he was told the group was barred this year because they broke parade rules by carrying a rainbow banner — a symbol of LGBTQ pride and solidarity — which the council considers a symbol of gay sexuality.

The parade has long been embroiled in legal controversy, including a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing members of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council to exclude gay groups on free speech grounds. But with the council's permission, OutVets was allowed to participate for the first time in the parade in 2015.

The council's 9-4 vote Tuesday to bar OutVets drew immediate condemnation from high-profile politicians, including Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who both said they would not participate in this year's parade scheduled for March 19. The parade's Chief Marshal, Dan Magoon, also stepped down.

The vote prompted at least one sponsor to withdraw its support for the parade, which in the past has drawn as many as one million spectators to the largely Irish-American South Boston neighborhood.

"The men and women from OutVets, who have bravely served our country, deserve our respect and to be included," Phil Tracey, a spokesman for supermarket chain Stop & Shop, said in a statement. "As a result of the organizer's decision, our South Boston store will no longer sponsor the parade."

The local Teamsters union also announced Thursday that it would not participate in this year's parade.

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