LISTEN: Gay Veterans Group Speaks Out Over Exclusion From St. Patrick's Day Parade

March 9, 2017

The Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston, organizers of the city's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, is set to hold an emergency meeting Friday to decide whether a gay veterans group, OUTVETS, should be allowed to march. It comes days after an initial vote to deny OUTVETS' application to march.
The Council says that OUTVETS' display of the gay pride rainbow on their banner violates the parade's code of conduct. This despite the fact that OUTVETS was allowed to march in the parade last year and the year before.
Bryan Bishop is the director of OUTVETS. He spoke with WGBH All Things Considered host Barbara Howard about why his group's application to march was denied and what that means for gay veterans. 

Interview Highlights 

On why they were excluded from the march

OutVets is not out to make a political statement. All we're saying is that we marched in this parade successfully, professionally for two years. The parade organizers told me we never had a problem with you you always marched in a professional manner. You looked great, you were respectful, you were dignified. And my response to that was 'Then what is your problem?" And he said, "It's the rainbow." And they told us if you take that off, we'll let you march. Basically, saying take off your identity, take off your logo and we'll let you march and that's unacceptable. This is just one part of the identity of OutVets. We are veterans first who just happen to be part of the LGBTQ community. We're getting away from the the real issue here: Discrimination is discrimination no matter how you look at it. There's all kinds of veterans out there.

On the rainbow emblem violating the parade's code of conduct

What it represents is diversity, inclusion and equality. It has nothing to do with sexuality whatsoever. And need I say that the rainbow is a symbol of iconolatry of the St. Patrick's day celebration. The rainbow colors are depicted in the World War II victory medal that was given to people who served in World War II.

On marching in the parade last year

We were placed at the back of the parade, we were not near any other veterans groups. We were placed between a substance abuse organization and a group of kids on mini bikes. We actually discussed going home at that point. But what we did say which made us go ahead and do it was that we're here to represent veterans we're here to honor the service sacrifice of not only LGBTQ veterans but all veterans, and for us to turn around and walk away now while ti might play well in the media it takes us away from what our mission is. so we proudly marched in that parade we were well received by the people who were there.

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