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Gay veterans push back against St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers

The crowd watched the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day parade on East Broadway in South Boston.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe staff/file

The crowd watched the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day parade on East Broadway in South Boston.

A dozen gay veterans pushed back today against organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston and rebutted a charge that MassEquality had lied on its parade application and did not have a group of veterans who wanted to march.

In a letter to parade organizers, the gay veterans wrote that they rejected allegations made by parade organizers that the gay advocacy group could only produce one veteran who wanted to march. The letter was signed by a dozen people who described themselves as active duty, reserve and National Guard veterans, disabled veterans, and former American Legion post commanders.

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“We have served our country with distinction defending our Constitution in our United States military service uniforms,” stated the letter. “We would be proud and honored to stand beside our fellow veterans, march and celebrate the service and sacrifice of all of our veteran brothers and sisters in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

MassEquality had previously applied to march in the parade on behalf of 20 gay veterans and the group LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] Veterans for Equality. The parade sponsor, the Allied War Veterans Council, rejected the application as a “ploy by them to enter this parade under false pretenses” because, they alleged, there was no group of veterans to march.

“We write first and foremost, to reject allegations made by the Allied War Veterans Council that we do not exist,” the letter stated. “We are quite disappointed that the Allied War Veterans Council will not let us fly our colors as we march. More importantly, however, we respectfully request that they cease to allege that we do not exist, that we are ‘supposed’ veterans and that we never intended to march.”

At Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s urging, parade organizers broke long-standing precedent and invited MassEquality to participate, but with a caveat: Marchers would be barred from wearing T-shirts or holding signs that included the word “gay” or other references to sexual orientation.

MassEquality has rejected the conditions.

“We fought too long and too hard to be able to serve our country openly to retreat back into the closet in order to march in a parade,” the letter stated. “As we have stood shoulder to shoulder, in war and in peace, we would stand together again marching as a symbol of the freedom that we offered our lives for, a freedom for all people, of all colors, creeds, origins, sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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