Gay rainbow banners make debut at Boston St Paddy's parade

Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:22pm EDT
 
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By Elizabeth Barber

BOSTON (Reuters) - For the first time in the 114-year history of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade, gay rights activists marched openly on Sunday under rainbow banners in the city's annual celebration of its Irish heritage, after organizers lifted a longtime ban.

Two groups, Boston Pride and OutVets, were among dozens of contingents taking part in the parade through the center of South Boston, once an insular Irish-American neighborhood near downtown that has undergone gentrification in recent years.

"South Boston is more diverse then it's ever been and our inclusion is a testament to change in the neighborhood," said Sylvain Bruno, president of Boston Pride, as he waited to march.

Organizers had excluded gay groups for two decades, maintaining that homosexuality conflicted with Roman Catholic doctrine. But they came under intense pressure to change their position, which ran counter to the liberal attitudes that prevail in Massachusetts. The state was the first in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.

"Finally in the city of Boston we're seeing the inclusivity we never thought we would see," said Bryan Bishop, the 46-year-old founder of OutVets, representing gay military veterans. "This is personally one of the greatest days of my life."

The Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston, which organizes the event, shortened the parade route by about half this year, after the city's near-record snowfall in recent weeks made it difficult to clear roads.

"I'm always proud of my city, but I'm especially proud today" said Liz Palmer, a 23-year-old student watching the parade with friends under overcast skies.

The lifting of the ban was not without controversy. The Massachusetts contingent of Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men's organization, pulled out of the parade on Friday, calling the event "politicized and divisive."   Continued...

 
Gay rights advocates prepare to march in an equality parade immediately after the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts March 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Dominick Reuter