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Democrats forced to choose as convention conflicts with Boston pride parade

Many activists irritated by overlap of parade and party’s gathering

A gay pride flag was hoisted at Boston City Hall on Friday to open the city’s celebration of Pride Week through events including the Pride Parade on Saturday.Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/file

What’s a good liberal to do?

On the one hand, Democratic candidates and activists want to show their support for the gay and lesbian community by joining the throngs of celebrants marching in rainbow hues for the Boston Pride Parade.

But, lo, the parade falls on Saturday, the same day as the party’s critical state convention in Worcester, where thousands of delegates will gather to endorse candidates for governor, attorney general, and other statewide offices.

That has created a genuine knot of angst and hurt feelings among gay and lesbian activists and Democrats who have been forced to choose between these two red-letter days on the liberal social calendar.


State Representative Liz Malia, an openly gay Democrat from Boston, said she was upset that the party did not consider the parade when it picked the date for the convention.

“It was pretty inexcusable, and I don’t know what else can be done,” Malia said. “The Democratic Party didn’t always want to have LGBT folks involved, and I guess it’s not important anymore. It’s really too bad.”

The parade kicks off near Copley Square at 11 a.m., just as the candidates are scheduled to address more than 6,000 activists at the DCU Center in Worcester. Those candidates cannot skip the convention since they need the need support of at least 15 percent of the delegates to qualify for the September primary ballot.

“I will be taking the stage in Worcester at exactly the time people will be lining up to march,” said Maura Healey, an openly gay contender for attorney general who has been a regular at past parades. “I only wish I could be in two places at once.”

John Walsh, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he accepts blame for the clash on the calendar, which he called “definitely an honest mistake.”


The Pride Parade, which traditionally draws a flock of candidates, has taken place on the second Saturday in June every year for the last 44 years, according to Sylvain Bruni, president of the parade’s board of directors.

But Walsh said he did not realize that back in April 2013 when party officials chose the date for the convention.

Walsh said that, even if he had realized there was a conflict, it would have been difficult to find another date because there were so many other events booked at the DCU Center this month.

“I’m very sorry,” Walsh said. “I wish we had realized and, even saying that, I’m not sure what other options we would have had.”

With so many Democratic candidates committed to appear in Worcester, Evan Falchuk, an independent, may be the only candidate for governor at the parade, soaking in the applause and hoopla without any competition.

Republican Charlie Baker and independent Jeff McCormick both said they do not plan to attend the parade and have other events scheduled.

“Works for me,” Falchuk said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The conflict for Democrats has touched a nerve because the party prides itself on its sensitivity to the concerns of gays and lesbians. The Bay State Stonewall Democrats, a group that advocates for gays and lesbians in the party, sent a formal letter of complaint urging party officials not to make the same mistake next year.

“I’m very upset about this,” said Holly Ryan, a delegate who is transgender and who said she is committed to attend the convention but will miss the parade, which she has attended since the 1970s. “My two highlights of the year are the state convention and Pride,” she said.


Several politicians who are not facing reelection this year will try to juggle both events. Mayor Martin J. Walsh plans to be in Worcester on Friday evening, then in Boston for the parade Saturday morning, then back to Worcester for the afternoon, an aide said.

Governor Deval Patrick will speak to the convention Friday night and then preside as grand marshal of the parade on Saturday. US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey also plan to speak in Worcester on Friday and then march in Boston on Saturday.

Others say they cannot shuttle between the two and are not pleased.

City Councilor Michelle Wu said she will march in the parade, but miss the convention. That means the first-term councilor will not get to court activists who could help raise her profile in state politics. “An agony for us all,” Wu said.

Indeed, you can’t be in two places at once.

“I’m frustrated more for the community, but also for the candidates,” said Bruni, the parade organizer. “It’s very important for them to be able to attend the convention, and demonstrate their support for the community. It’s really an unfortunate situation.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.