Gay veterans won’t march in S. Boston parade

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.

After a series of tense negotiations, Mayor Martin J. Walsh received a blow Wednesday with decisive news that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade will not include a group of gay military veterans, as he had hoped.

MassEquality, an advocate for the gay community, signaled that any opportunity for compromise had reached a dead end and that its group of gay veterans will not march at the South Boston event Sunday. Walsh had hoped to march, but said he would do so only if gays are allowed.

“It’s over; we won’t be there,” said Kara S. Coredini, executive director of MassEquality, which had filed an application with the parade to allow 20 gay veterans to march.


Coredini’s comments came after nearly two weeks of negotiations led by Walsh, amid numerous controversial twists and turns and even though the mayor and US Representative Stephen Lynch recently appeared optimistic that MassEquality and the Allied War Veterans Council, the parade sponsor, could find common ground.

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But with four days remaining before the parade, Walsh staff members said there appeared to be no prospects for a pact.

“Mayor Walsh obviously is disappointed that these two parties could not come to an agreement for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade,’’ said Lisa Pollack, communications chief for Walsh. He “will always hold out hope that we can find a way for everybody to be included.”

Parade organizer Philip J. Wuschke Jr. did not return calls for comments Wednesday. Lynch also could not be reached for comment. An aide to Lynch did not respond to questions about whether the congressman would march Sunday and continued to strike a hopeful tone.

“Talks regarding the parade are ongoing,” Meghan Aldridge, Lynch’s press secretary, said. “Congressman Lynch remains hopeful that a solution agreeable to all parties involved can be reached in time for Sunday’s parade.”


Many lawmakers reached Wednesday said they would not march. Councilor Salvatore LaMattina of East Boston said that he has never marched in the parade because of the ban on gay groups, but that he had held out hope that Walsh and Lynch would have success brokering a deal.

“I was hoping that Mayor Walsh and Congressman Lynch would have been able to settle this one,’’ LaMattina said. “It’s too bad, because I know they wanted everyone to be included.”

Walsh and Lynch have been invited to participate in a separate St. Patrick’s Day Peace march that follows the parade and is open to everyone. Pollack said Walsh is not expected to participate in that event.

Walsh sailed into office in November with key support from the gay community, which helped extend his appeal in neighborhoods beyond his base in Dorchester and South Boston. As a state representative, Walsh frequently marched in the parade, which celebrates Irish culture and Revolutionary War history. He has said that as mayor he wanted an inclusive parade and vowed not to participate if gay groups are excluded.

In recent weeks, Walsh tried to broker a deal between MassEquality and parade organizers to end a controversy that has festered for two decades. He succeeded in getting parade organizers to invite MassEquality to allow 20 gay veterans who are members of the group LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender] Veterans for Equality to march in the parade.


But the offer came with the condition that members refrain from making any reference to sexual orientation during the parade.

The parade sponsor, backed by a Supreme Court ruling, has said that gays and lesbians have always been allowed to participate and that any form of political activism is banned to maintain the spirit of the parade. MassEquality rejected the condition that its group not march as openly gay veterans.

Then, last week, parade organizers rejected MassEquality’s application, saying they saw it as a “ploy by them to enter this parade under false pretenses.”

The parade sponsor cut off negotiations and said that MassEquality had lied in its application about the number of veterans who would march.

On Wednesday, gay veterans, backed by MassEquality, rebutted the charge in a letter to parade organizers. 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.

“We have served our country with distinction defending our Constitution in our United States military service uniforms,” the letter said.

“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.”

Neil MacInnes-Barker, a former sergeant in the US Air Force, said he signed up for the march two weeks ago, as negotiations were starting. He said that normally he does not participate in the parades, including ones celebrating the gay community, but that he wanted to be present in the St. Patrick’s Day event.

“If there are people — Irish Americans — who are LGBT in South Boston, then I want to march for them,’’ MacInnes-Barker said. “If they are afraid of being intimidated . . . then I will stand for them.”

Meghan Irons can be reached at Follower her on Twitter at MeghanIrons. Andrew Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.