In Theory: Initial exclusion of LGBT veterans group from St. Patrick’s Day prompts swift response

After organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston voted to exclude a group of gay and transgender military veterans from marching, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said they would not participate in the event, the New York Times reports.

“I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form,” Walsh said. “Anyone who values what our city stands for should do the same.”

The parade organizers, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, voted 9-4 to exclude OutVets, prompting Dan Magoon, executive director of Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, to resign as the parade’s chief marshal.

Magoon said opponents of OutVets cited a late application and past code of conduct violations.

While the code does not ban LGBT groups, it does prohibit displays of sexual orientation “as a topic that should in any way be depicted as a theme of our parade.”

OutVets founder Bryan Bishop said parade organizers said a small rainbow patch violated its code. The group has participated in the parade for two years and wore the same patch without incident.

“They said people felt that rainbows represent the gay community,” Bishop said. “I told them if that’s the case, then every picture of a rainbow in the parade that leads to a pot of gold needs to be removed.”

The council later reinstated OutVets by a unanimous vote, and Baker and Walsh both participated in the parade.

Q. What do you think of the decision to exclude and later reinstate OutVets and the response from Baker and Walsh?

The unanimous decision of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council to reverse its earlier vote to exclude the LGBT group OutVets from its St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a victory for equality and shows the power of savvy organizing. OutVets lobbied the politicians, the politicians brought the power of boycott to bear on the Veterans Council, which then came to its senses and withdrew its bigoted decision. This situation is a textbook example of nonviolent, democratic social change. Well done, OutVets!

LGBT people are now welcome in the military — they were always there — and marriage equality is the law of the land. At this point, why would gay people, particularly veterans who served their country, be excluded from anything? Some people will cling to their homophobia, but we have made great strides toward legal fairness and social inclusion of LBGT people, which is progress that should make everyone proud. Viewing ABC’s recent miniseries “When We Rise” is a good way to gain an appreciation for the decades of struggle involved in achieving the level of legal equality and fairness we now enjoy. Unitarian Universalists were the first major religious group in the U.S. to ordain LGBT clergy and have recognized same sex marriages since 1984.

For me there is an even bigger question: Why does U.S. foreign policy continue to create so many veterans? Are our endless wars accomplishing anything? Groups like Veterans for Peace raise this question at every opportunity. The late Leonard Matlovich, a decorated Vietnam Veteran who was the first gay service member to willingly out himself in order to contest the ban on gays in the military, continued his struggle with his epitaph: “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and discharge for loving one.”

I look forward to the day when we stop killing and wounding people through prejudice and senseless conflicts, and the Pentagon has to hold a garage sale to buy bombs.

David L. Hostetter, Ph.D. Vice President, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills La Crescenta

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The published code of conduct for the parade’s participants prohibits displays of sexual orientation “as a topic that should in any way be depicted as a theme of our parade.” In their previous parade participation OutVets willfully violated that standard of conduct by wearing rainbow insignia that specifically identified themselves as homosexual. The decision to ban them from the parade was justified. The decision to reinstate them was due, in my estimation, to growing societal pressure to embrace this sexual deviance as normal or even praiseworthy.

The Bible clearly denounces homosexual activity as sinful. It’s certainly not the only sin, nor is it in my estimation the worst. The Bible says that “all have sinned,” so we are wise to examine our own lives before denouncing the sins of others. Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2). Everyone who receives him by faith is cleansed of all sins, no matter what those sins were. Being allowed to participate in a parade is one thing, but willfully parading sin before a holy God is quite another. Jesus’ first words of his first public message were: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). It is time for us as a nation to repent.

Pastor Jon Barta Burbank

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This has been a saga of epic courageous acts. The courage of veterans willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The courage of the OutVets who, in this environment of political correctness, showed the courage of their convictions. The courage of the sponsors of the parade who changed their minds after those without courage surrendered to the forces of discrimination all our veterans have continued to fight against when those veterans donned the uniform of the country.

May we never do less as we, veterans of the wars against bigotry, fight the continuing war for all freedoms.

Rabbi Mark Sobel Temple Beth Emet Burbank

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It hurts to be left behind when the parade marches through town. The Montrose Peace Vigil’s application was rejected for several years by our local Christmas parade, for reasons as flimsy and arbitrary as those given to OutVets. But saner heads prevailed, as in South Boston.

Some corporate sponsors were pulling out in Southie, in addition to Mayor Walsh, Gov. Baker and the parade’s chief marshal all boycotting over the discriminatory exclusion. Overnight the nine anti-gay/tran votes evaporated.

An OutVets spokesperson worried that they would be greeted by “kegs and eggs” but the Boston Globe reported a "noticeable roar” of loud cheering from the crowd as the gay and transgender vets passed by during this year's parade, which was shortened due to a looming snowstorm and cold temperatures.

So in the end St. Patrick's Day in Boston was celebrated with all the traditional festivities, including fistfights, vomiting in trash cans and four commuter rail coaches vandalized. A cafe owner proclaimed, “It's a lot of drunk people, but it's the best day to make money.”

Peaceniks or people wearing little rainbow patches don’t rain on anyone’s parade. Is this a great country or what?

Roberta Medford Atheist Montrose

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Personally, I do believe the group should have remained excluded. There was no reason why these vets could not proudly march with their fellow vets down the route displaying appropriate Irish heritage symbols. “St. Patrick’s Day” is named for a preeminent Christian pastor who spent his time in sinful Ireland converting the pagans. Because of his efforts, Ireland is considered a Christian country today, divided somewhat since the Protestant Reformation, but the Irish consider “Paddy” their patron saint, and a parade for Irish pride goes together with their great godly minister who led them out of darkness.

Given that the parade is essentially an Irish commemoration of a Christian evangelist, it hardly makes sense to then include those who would march down the street advertising antithetical morals and sensibilities. I would put it on par with a Jewish parade excluding a KKK Marching Band or a Neo-Nazi Pride Float. Which reminds me, the rainbow first presents itself as spiritually significant in the Old Testament immediately after the Noahic Flood. God makes a promise to mankind saying, “Whenever I cover the sky with clouds and the rainbow appears, I will remember my promise to you and to all the animals that a flood will never again destroy all living beings” (Genesis 9:14-15 GNT). Christians and Jews alike have used the rainbow ever since as a symbol of God’s blessing and good fortune. It’s no wonder the Irish make so much use of it with a pot of gold being found where the bow terminates. But since homosexuals have co-opted the symbol, their cause is now what unhappily intrudes upon our biblical image. It’s much like when Hitler took the Hindu swastika, a symbol of good luck, and made it forever a symbol of the Holocaust.

By the way, it was not only a rainbow patch that the homosexual vets wore, they carried a banner proclaiming their “out”-ness; it’s just as inappropriate as can be. Such an inclusion seems to open the door for anything, and St. Patrick is probably rolling in his grave.

Rev. Bryan A. Griem Tujunga

Copyright © 2017, Burbank Leader

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