BOSTON — Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade made history Sunday as two gay and lesbian groups marched after decades of opposition that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The gay military veterans service group OutVets and the gay rights group Boston Pride were invited by the sponsoring South Boston Allied War Veterans Council to the annual celebration of military veterans and Irish heritage.
"We march today for the memories of those thousands and thousands of people who went before us, some who went to their graves in the closet," OutVets founder and leader Bryan Bishop, an Air Force veteran, told his group before the parade.
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The Allied War Council's current leaders voted 5-4 in December to welcome OutVets as one of about 100 groups in this year's parade. Boston Pride said it also received an acceptance letter this week.
Boston's mayors had boycotted the event since 1995, when the council took its fight to exclude gay groups to the U.S. Supreme Court and won on First Amendment grounds. This year, Mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and other political leaders took part.
At a St. Patrick's Day breakfast Sunday, Walsh thanked the sponsors for making sure the parade was "fully inclusive today." He and Baker said in parade-side interviews with New England Cable News that they were glad to see the issue put to rest. "Gay people marched in the parade for years, just under different banners," Walsh said.
Some Roman Catholic groups declined to march, including the state Knights of Columbus, saying they felt this year's parade had been politicized.