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Gay rights group meets with Walsh, parade organizers

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh maintained an optimistic tone today about whether gay rights activists and organizers of the city’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade could reach an agreement providing for an “inclusive” parade, ending years of exclusion of gay people from the event.

“I’m grateful to both groups for the open mindedness and courage they continue to display as we work through this process,” he said. “All parties remain optimistic that a solution can be reached to allow for an inclusive celebration.”

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But one of the groups participating in the parade, a Catholic school in the town of Harvard known for its band and float featuring a waving St. Patrick, vowed today to pull out of the celebration because school officials felt parade organizers had already conceded too much.

Organizers this year have said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups are welcome to march as long as they do not wear T-shirts or hold signs that refer to sexual orientation. One group has already said that its members will march and abide by those rules.

Walsh said in a statement that he, along with US Representative Stephen Lynch, had met Sunday with members of MassEquality, a statewide organization advocating gay rights, and the Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade.

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“The meeting was a positive one, and discussions regarding this year’s parade continue,” he said this afternoon in a statement.

MassEquality executive director Kara Coredini also said the “conversation is ongoing.”

The fact that parade organizers are willing to have a continuing dialogue with gay rights activists is “important and historic,” she said.

The president of the South Boston Association of Non-Profits said members would march in compliance with the stipulations set by the parade organizers, with a message celebrating and including openly gay marchers, but avoiding specifically pro-gay sentiments.

Coredini’s group feels that the parade organizers should further loosen the restrictions. She told the Globe Sunday that her organization would only join the parade if gay people could march openly.

In today’s statement, she reiterated, “A parade that is truly welcoming to LGBT people would allow marchers to identify themselves as LGBT. It would not condition celebration of one identity on the silencing of another identity.”

But even the limited concession by parade organizers was too much for some. The Immaculate Heart of Mary School in the town of Harvard issued a statement this morning saying its band and float, which featured a person playing the role of St. Patrick, would not be joining the parade.

The school principal, Brother Thomas Dalton, said, “The familiar scene of Saint Patrick joyfully giving his blessing to the crowds has, sad to say, come to an end. In the footsteps of Saint Patrick, IHM does not condone and will not appear to condone the homosexual lifestyle.”

The Catholic Action League, an organization that is independent of the Boston archdiocese, said the school’s decision to withdraw was “an act of courage, integrity, and fidelity to the moral teachings of the Catholic religion.”

As a state representative, Walsh marched in the parade, but now that he is mayor, he has said he would not march unless LGBT groups can participate.

Parade organizer Philip J. Wuschke Jr., who was in Sunday’s meeting, told the Globe earlier Sunday that messages of LGBT equality are not in keeping with the messages of Irish pride the parade promotes.

Parade organizers won a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court in 1995 that permitted the exclusion of groups presenting a message contrary to the veterans’ council’s intent.

In recent years, the Veterans for Peace group has organized a second parade that follows the traditional parade. The second parade has included many LGBT groups.

Veterans for Peace announced this morning that Carlos Arredondo and his wife, Melida, would be the parade’s grand marshals.

Carlos Arredondo became an image of the everyman heroism in the response to the Boston Marathon terror bombings when an AP photo captured him, in a white cowboy hat, rushing a victim to an ambulance. Arredondo also lost one son to a sniper in Iraq and another to suicide.

Arredondo said in a statement that both parades should be merged.

“Boston Strong means all of us uniting together whether at a tragedy or against bigotry and exclusion, or the need for peace,” he said. “There is a lot of controversy surrounding these parades. We should all come together, combine the two parades into one big parade and allow everyone, straight, gay, peace, old and young to all participate together celebrating Saint Patrick.”

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