Boston Mayor To Boycott St. Patrick’s Day Parade Over Anti-Gay Discrimination

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) announced that he will not participate Sunday in South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, due to the parade organizers’ refusal to allow LGBT groups.

In a press release Sunday morning, Walsh explaned, “As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city. Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible.”

For years, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which sponsors the parade, has refused to allow LGBT groups to march in the parade. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the parade organizers have the legal right to exclude people, under their First Amendment free speech protections, despite a Massachusetts state law that prohibits employment and public accommodation discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D), Boston’s mayor from 1993 to January of this year, boycotted the parade every year since 1994 over the anti-gay policy.

This year, Walsh (who was sworn-in as Mayor in January) attempted to negotiate a deal to allow LGBT groups to participate. While talks between the LGBT-rights group MassEquality initially showed some promise, negotiations broke down earlier this month and LGBT veterans were barred from participating.

The Boston Beer Company, which makes Sam Adams beer, pulled its support for the parade last week, after nearly a decade of support. ‘We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade,” the company announced, “But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”

Walsh continued, as late as this week, to push for a resolution that would allow LGBT participation. “I don’t give up. I am going to continue to try. We’ve got a few more days. The thing is, we were very close. … I am going to try and do one more shot at this,” he told the Boston Herald on Wednesday night.

But Sunday, Walsh lamented the lack of a deal and the hypocrisy of the parade organizers’ continued anti-LGBT exclusion. “The St. Patrick’s Day parade was born out of the celebration of Evacuation Day, a day set aside to recognize and honor our military and those brave Americans who have banded together for the sake of freedom. And so much of our Irish history has been shaped by the fight against oppression,” he said.