Two candidates for a state Senate seat representing South Boston called Friday for the inclusion of gay and lesbian groups in the neighborhood’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, but the parade’s organizer said there are no plans to change its policies barring those groups.
Maureen Dahill, a Democrat and fourth-generation South Boston resident, and state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, released statements Friday saying the time has come to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups into the parade organized by the Allied War Veterans Council.
“I know this [controversy] has been going on since the mid-’90s, and I just feel like now is the time,” Dahill, 43, said by phone Friday. “South Boston is a wonderful and inclusive neighborhood, and I feel like the parade should reflect that.”
Dorcena Forry, a Haitian-American who is married to Irish-American journalist Bill Forry, said this issue has kept her out of the parade for the eight years she has served on Beacon Hill, but she would like to be able to march with their four half-Irish children.
“I go to the breakfast every year; I just do not march in the parade,” Dorcena Forry, 39, said, referring to the annual political breakfast that for the past 11 years has been hosted by former state senator John A. Hart Jr.
Dorcena Forry, Dahill, and state Representative Nick Collins are competing to fill the First Suffolk District Senate seat recently vacated when Hart took a job at a law firm.
Collins, a South Boston Democrat, could not be reached for comment Friday night.
“I have never walked because it has not been inclusive,” Dorcena Forry said. “I’ve always taken that stand. I’m hopeful and I have faith that the parade committee will really do the right thing.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he, too, chooses not to participate in the parade because of the policy against gay groups. But she also pointed to a 1995 ruling by the US Supreme Court that said organizers have the right to choose who marches.
“It’s a private parade,” said Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman. “The mayor has made his statement very clear. He does not march in that parade, but the Supreme Court has ruled on that parade.”
Philip J. Wuschke Jr., organizer of the parade for the past three years, said lesbians and gay men are welcome to march as individuals and as members of other groups, but the event is a celebration and not a political demonstration.
“Gay and lesbian people have been walking in the parade since the beginning of the parade itself,” Wuschke, 47, said Friday. “They just don’t come out holding a sign.
“It isn’t that gay and lesbian people are banned; it’s just that it’s not that type of a parade,” he added.
Wuschke cited the Supreme Court ruling and said he has turned away other groups, including white supremacists, who hoped to use the parade as a vehicle for political agendas.
“There is a day — I think the parade is in July — that they go out and they have their march,” he said of Boston Pride, the annual celebration for gay groups. “I mean, why keep picking on this parade? I just don’t know.”
Dahill, who founded and edits the Caught in Southie website, said for her the issue is personal. She has many lesbian and gay supporters, she said, as well as a brother who is gay.
This year, she would like to march alongside her brother, she said, knowing that he and his community are welcome.
“Why not?” Dahill said. “It’s 2013. It’s a different time. It’s the perfect time, I feel like.”