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Talks Between Gay Rights Group, Parade Organizers Break Down

BOSTON — Talks over whether to include a gay rights group in the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade broke down Tuesday.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, has once again rejected an application from LGBT Veterans for Equality, an affiliate of MassEqaulity.

After weekend negotiations with MassEqaulity, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, parade organizers said Monday that MassEquality could march but would not be allowed to wear clothing or hold signs that refer to sexual orientation — an offer that MassEquality rejected.

After continued negotiations Monday night, parade organizers rescinded that offer, saying they no longer believe MassEquality actually has a group of veterans who want to march in the parade as they had claimed on their application.

“The application stated that 20 United States Veterans wished to March with Mayor Walsh and other Politicians in this year’s parade … After some consideration, the Council agreed that Any Veteran should be allowed to march, regardless of sexual orientation,” parade organizers said in a statement on their website.

The statement went on to say that during a meeting with MassEqaulity at City Hall Monday night, “it was made clear” that MassEquality did not have 20 veterans who wished to march. Organizers also said they could not find any evidence of LGBT Veterans for Equality that “would confirm them as a recognized Veterans Organization.”

Mayor Walsh said in a statement he is hopeful that a “resolution acceptable to all parties is still within reach.”

The parade has had a long and torturous history on the question of whether gay groups can march.

State courts forced the sponsors to allow the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston to march in the parade in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, the sponsors canceled the parade rather than allow the group to participate.

In 1995, the sponsors made participation by invitation only and said the parade would commemorate the role of traditional families in Irish history and protest the earlier court rulings. But several months later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Massachusetts courts had previously violated the parade sponsors’ First Amendment rights when they forced them to allow the gay group to participate.

Walsh has said he won’t take part in the parade if gay marchers are banned.

With additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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