BOSTON — Gay rights group MassEquality says it’s surprised and disappointed by the decision from organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade to end negotiations aimed at allowing the group to march openly in this year’s parade.
The head of MassEquality said in a statement Wednesday that she was encouraged by recent face-to-face meetings with representatives from the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, and is “extremely disappointed” with the group’s decision to reject MassEquality’s application to march.
“We were under the impression that negotiations were positive and ongoing, and we were surprised by the abrupt and hostile tone of the Parade organizers’ rejection,” MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini said in a statement.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council released a statement Tuesday saying 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, as it had claimed on its application.
“Rather, they presented only one supposed Veteran and a group of others carrying rainbow flags,” the statement said. “When asked about a Color Guard, their loan Veteran replied that he wasn’t sure he could supply any more Veterans willing to march. ”
Coredini insists there was no misrepresentation.
“MassEqaulity has a group of veterans who we worked with to overturn the Department of Defenese’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy who would have been happy to march in the parade and mark the end of the parade’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy,” she told WBUR.
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.
While Boston Mayor Martin Walsh says he’s still holding out hope for a compromise, MassEqaulity says discussions on the issue are clearly over.
Walsh has said he won’t take part in the parade if gay marchers are banned.
With additional reporting by The Associated Press.