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Walsh says deal close on St. Patrick’s Day parade

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday that he will negotiate up to the end for a deal that would allow gays to march openly in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“It’s very close,” Walsh said. “Both sides have agreed to . . . working something out. But I think the outside influences kind of set off the deal, so I think we need a little bit of a cooling-off period.”

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Earlier this week, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the parade’s sponsor, and MassEquality, the state’s largest gay rights group, appeared to be close to a deal ending the two-decade prohibition against gays openly marching.

But the negotiations deteriorated, and parade organizers rescinded an invitation allowing a gay veterans group to march.

Walsh had urged the organizers to invite MassEquality to participate. But that invitation had a caveat: Marchers would be barred from wearing T-shirts or holding signs that included the word gay or other references to sexual orientation. Mass-Equality rejected the condition.

The controversy dates to 1992, when organizers refused entry to the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston. The group won the right in state court to march, but organizers continued to fight. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which in 1995 handed parade organizers a unanimous victory.

Walsh said both sides need a cooling-off period.

“In my heart, I know it’s there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of letting people take a deep breath.’’

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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