Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Gay Exclusion Not a Result of Homophobia


There has been a lot of misguided discourse recently over the proposed inclusion of a group of gay veteran marchers, represented by MassEquality, into the annual Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade and somewhere along the line the actual circumstances were blurred in accordance with the frustration of those not getting what they wanted the way they wanted it. As the country looks on under the impression that someone’s rights were denied to them, the authentic entity of the parade and its rich history are buried under frivolous and unnecessary banter over a genuine non-issue.

The parade organizers, The Allied Veterans War Council, never explicitly banned the gay veterans from marching, they simply maintained that the focus of the parade was for the Irish and veteran heritage of the city. The exclusion of the gay veterans in the Boston St. Patrick’s day parade was not a result of homophobia, but a personal choice made by the marchers to remove themselves because the traditional focus of the parade would not bend to their seemingly overzealous demands.

Mayor Walsh released a statement today divulging his utter disappointment in being obliged to boycott the parade this year. He wished the city a happy holiday and informed everyone he would be spending the day with his family rather than on a float as he had hoped. Two weeks ago, no one saw this coming.

When the involved parties met and deliberated, it seemed promising that all would walk away with what they initially wanted. The organizers have asserted on multiple occasions that they have no grievance with gay veterans, or their wish to march as openly gay men or women. Their only stipulation was this: this is an Irish parade that also honors Evacuation Day, thus including veterans as well. To allow one group to make the focal point of the procession gay pride would make it a gay pride parade, and that, it is not.

The finalized deal, which in all fairness appeared quite equitable, was to allow each participant to wear a scarf of whatever color, flag, or symbol they deemed worthy over their uniform or suit. This was not enough for the group of gay veterans who hap aspirations of flowing rainbow banners in their heads. The controversial exclusion of the gay marchers from the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, brought about by their own choice to withdraw, therefore, was simply not a result of homophobia.

In the absence of MassEquality from the procession, the Allied Veterans War Council will still uphold the diversity float that was built as a token for all backgrounds and varieties of veterans and Irish lineage that are welcome and honored, including but not limited to the gay ones. It will move through the diminished streets quite somberly now, as the rainbow hued flags installed atop it in excited preparation for this year’s newest non-present inductees wave about in the tepid air.

Now that the parade’s arrival is upon the torn in two city and the battle lines have been mistakenly drawn, a substantial amount of sponsorship and participation has pulled out of the celebration. Numerous radio sponsors such as Clear Channel’s JAM’N 94.5, Entercom’s WAAF 97.7/107.3 and WEEI 93.7, CBS local’s Mix 104.1 and AMP 103.3, and more have all backed out of the once prideful presentation of Boston culture.  These are entire floats, on top of invaluable coverage, that have simply vanished from the roster because these companies think the parade organizers are to blame for the absence of the gays.

Sam Adams is perhaps the most notable corporation yet to have taken an admirable, if not sadly misguided, stand against the misinterpreted parade by pulling all their beer out of the event.  Where does that leave the formerly beloved St. Patrick’s Day parade?  Alone with the Irish citizens it seems, the only ones who remember what the parade was meant for.

After Mayor Walsh’s bold dismissal of the parade, 45 additional city councilors, state legislators, statewide elected officials, US representatives and senators are now confirmed as non-attendees as well. After a two decade ban on openly gay marchers in its folds, the parade had made a monumental stride in gay equality this year that is now going unnoticed and blatantly ignored unfortunately. Had the involved members of MassEquality just remembered that for this particular occasion they were veterans first, and homosexuals second, they could be primping right now for their glorious triumph.

Instead, they have resigned from even participating because they could not be as explicit and flamboyant as they had envisioned and unfairly demanded.  Maybe next year they can revisit the notion of compromise and try again. In the meantime, the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade is still scheduled for tomorrow and despite what America wants to think, the exclusion of the group of gay veterans from marching is not the result of any unethical homophobia but simply a tragic misunderstanding.

Opinion By Brandon Duringer