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Deal struck allowing gay group to march in Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade

Deal struck allowing gay group to march in Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade

A tentative deal has been struck to allow a gay rights group to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade this year, after a two decade ban.

Gay rights groups haven’t been able to march in the annual parade since 1993, and in 1995 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that organizers could exclude anyone they wanted.

Although details of the deal are not yet clarified, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he was ‘optimistic that a solution can be reached that will work for all parties involved’.

The group in question is MassEquality, a Massachusetts advocacy organisation that aims to tackle discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Currently, organizers have only agreed to permit the gay rights group to march under its own banner if members did not wear clothing or carry placards that made reference to their sexual orientation.

The group has responded to the conditions of the deal, saying members will only take part if they can march openly.

MassEquality’s executive director Kara Coredini said: ‘LGBT people should not have to silence who they are to celebrate other parts of their identities.’

However, Coredini acknowledged the negotiations are ‘a significant step forward’ and is ‘encouraged’ by the conversation, adding: ‘It’s not political to want to be equal. It’s not political to want to be visible and welcomed by your community.’

If the group doesn’t get the green light to march, Walsh has said he will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and boycott the celebrations.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times about the deal, organizer Phil Wushke Jr. said: ‘[MassEquality] are going to be marching with a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” sign. That’s it.

‘It’s a day of celebration not demonstration. We’re there to send a message about St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, and if they choose to abide by that, they are welcome.’

He added that LGBTI people are free to demonstrate in their own parades: ‘They have a day for that, which is non-inclusive and doesn’t allow pro-life groups and Catholic organizations.’

Lead organizer Tim Duross echoed the sentiment: ‘We don’t ban gays, we just want to keep the parade an Irish parade.’

He added: ‘Everyone knows who they are. They’re a good organization, they help LGBT veterans, and if they help veterans they’re OK with us.’

The parade, held in South Boston, was canceled in 1994 after state courts had forced organisers to allow gay groups to march freely in previous years.

Many Bostonians are of Irish Catholic descent, and Walsh’s efforts to include MassEquality in this year’s parade has prompted criticism from the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, who said such a change would ‘destroy the traditional character of the parade’ and ‘reduce it to a secular community festival’.

The New York parade also excludes gay groups, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will become the first mayor to miss the occasion as a result.

Watch Mayor Walsh discuss the deal in the video below.