There will be no formal LGBT entries in this year’s Little Saigon Tet Parade after an Orange County judge ruled that organizers were within their First Amendment rights to bar them from taking part.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey T Glass would not grant an injunction requested by the Partnership of Viet Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organizations, a coalition of Vietnamese American LGBT groups, to allow them to participate in the parade, stating that parade organizers were within their rights to decide which groups could march.
Judge Glass cited a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the organizers of South Boston’s St Patrick’s Day Parade organizers to bar LGBT groups from marching in their parade in making his decision.
In 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional for privately organized parades to exclude groups under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’
LGBT groups marched in the parade for the last three years when it had been organized by local government but this year the City of Westminster decided it could not afford to run the parade and instead handed the event over to the local Vietnamese community to run.
LGBT groups filled out their applications to march this year but the new organizers were unwilling to allow them to march despite the support of the local Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce for LGBT groups to participate and the support of the local school district who decided to pull their entry in solidarity.
However parade organizers cannot stop LGBTs from marching as individuals and the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, one of the Tet Festival’s sponsors, has invited a group of members of the local LGBT community to march with their group.
Despite the loss, lawyers for the LGBT groups told the Orange County Register that the issue had improved the profile of LGBTs within the Vietnamese American community.
‘In a sense, my clients have already won because the issue of gay rights is now front and center,’ said Luan Tran, an attorney acting for the LGBT groups.