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Gay army veterans WILL be allowed to march in Boston St Patrick's Day parade

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said yesterday she would not take part in the parade.

ST PATRICK’S DAY festival organisers in Boston reversed course last night, announcing that a group of gay veterans would be allowed to march in next week’s parade after all.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council (who organises the event) announced on the parade’s Twitter account that it had signed an “acceptance letter” that would clear the way for OutVets to participate.

An earlier vote by the council to bar OutVets from marching drew immediate condemnation from high-profile politicians both in the US and Ireland. It caused some sponsors to back out and stirred up a furore on social media.

Ireland Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said yesterday that she would not take part in the parade in Boston unless the group were allowed to march.

The group has been allowed to march in the previous two parades.

“As Irish Government Minister in Boston for St Patrick’s Day I stand with OutVets and will not take part in a parade that excludes them,” Zappone tweeted.

Zappone will be present in the US for the festival in her role Minister for Children.

A spokesperson for Zappone told TheJournal.ie that she would now be attending the parade. The spokesperson also said that Zappone had asked festival organisers to make arrangements so that she could meet with Outvets on the day.

A lawyer for OutVets said late Friday that the group looked forward to “marching proudly” and representing LGBTQ veterans.

“We are honored and humbled by all the outpouring of support that has been displayed for our LGBTQ veterans – who are one of the most unrepresented demographics in our veterans community,” said lawyer said Dee Dee Edmondson.

South Boston Allied War Veterans Council member Edward Flynn said Friday night he was proud the group invited OutVets to be part of the parade.

“South Boston is an inclusive community, and with this development, we are one step closer to a parade that reflects that spirit,” he said.

It was unclear if the reversal of the decision was a result of a second vote by the council.

“I decided this is a wrong that has to be corrected,” the parade’s lead organiser, Tim Duross, told WHDH-TV.

Earlier yesterday, OutVets executive director Bryan Bishop said the vets had been told the original decision to bar them was because of their rainbow symbols.

Bishop said the council offered to allow the group to march if its members did not display the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, which is on their banner and their jackets.

The group said no.

“I almost fell out of the chair at that point, said, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Bishop said.

He said OutVets has displayed the rainbow at the parade the last two years.

St Patricks Parade Gays OutVets founder Bryan Bishop poses in his house in Boston yesterday. Source: AP

Edmondson, the OutVets lawyer, yesterday described the acceptance letter as “generic” and said it did not make fully clear whether the gay group would be allowed to display its banner.

Another veterans group, Veterans for Peace, said it also had been denied permission to participate. That group has been trying unsuccessfully for several years to march.

OutVets was first allowed to participate in the parade in 2015, in what was seen as a groundbreaking decision after parade organisers had, for decades, resisted the inclusion of gay groups.

The case went to the US Supreme Court, which in 1995 upheld the council’s right to bar gay groups on free speech grounds.

With reporting from Associated Press

Read: Gay army veterans denied right to march in Boston’s St Patrick’s Day parade

 Read: Donald Trump’s St. Patrick’s Day hat has been pulled from his website

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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