The route of Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has been changed to avoid snow-clogged streets — but that’s not the only thing that’s markedly different this year. A gay rights group, Boston Pride, said Friday it has been allowed to march. US Representative Seth Moulton, who served four tours as a Marine in Iraq, is expected to walk with OUTVETS, a group for gay and gay-friendly veterans that was accepted into the parade late last year. These are measures that seem nothing short of revolutionary, given the 20-year battle waged against the inclusion of gay groups by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council — a fight that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which concluded the council had the right to exclude gay groups.
The council’s about-face last December, when it voted by a thin margin to include OUTVETS, was a heartening sign that even the most retrograde traditions are subject to the sweeping changes in attitudes about gay civil rights. The inclusion of Boston Pride suggests a broader opening. Acknowledging that progress, Mayor Martin Walsh announced earlier this week that he’ll become the first Boston mayor in 20 years to march along. Governor Charlie Baker will also attend.
These are welcome, and essential, changes in a fast-evolving city that has the world’s attention as it bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. So it’s especially important to show that in 2015, Boston is a vibrant city that attracts technologists, educators, researchers, and lab workers from all over the globe, and is marked more by its reputation for innovation than for refighting old grievances and meting out revenge.
The St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast before the march reflects that change as well: For the first time, last year, state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry became the first woman and the first person of color to host the tired, outdated hash-and-eggs affair that had been dominated for decades by male Irish-American politicians. Her opening shtick, which featured her speaking in Haitian Creole to a cabbie whisking city council president William Linehan off to Ireland, brought down the house. (In fact, back in the old country, Ireland has set May 22 as the date for a referendum on same-sex marriage.)
Although the jokes at this year’s breakfast will undoubtedly continue to be hit-and-miss, it is worth taking a moment to note that social progress can be measured in many ways, including footsteps at a neighborhood holiday parade.