A Welcome Step In The March For Equality

Boston made history on Sunday afternoon, as LGBTQ organizers participated for the first time in the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is considered the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country.

This year’s parade marked a turning point in the city’s history after organizers agreed to include the group Boston Pride, which hosts its own parade in June celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender awareness, as well as OutVets, a group that honors LGBT veterans. The decision to include the two groups represented tremendous progress in Massachusetts, and comes nearly 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court gave parade organizers’ authority to exclude openly gay groups from the event.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, joined thousands of spectators donned in green clothing as the first Boston mayor to walk the route in two decades. Walsh, who unsuccessfully tried to push for the inclusion of gay rights groups last year, announced last week that he would be marching in this year’s parade after organizers invited OutVets to participate in the day’s events.

“I’m thrilled that the St. Patrick’s Day parade is inclusive this year, and the addition of Boston Pride to the list of participants reflects the values of the South Boston neighborhood,” Walsh said in a statement Friday. “With this year’s parade, Boston is putting years of controversy behind us.”

Although many people admired the organizers’ decision to accept the openly gay activists for the first time, some groups were outraged. According to The Boston Globe, The Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus withdrew from the parade, declaring the event had “become politicized and divisive.” The Immaculate Heart of Mary School, a Catholic school located in Harvard, Mass. also announced that it would not march because OutVets had been invited.

Despite the resistance from a small number of local Catholic groups, this year’s parade was largely a success. The route was shortened because of winter’s record snowfalls, but was full of enthusiasm by the wide variety of the groups represented on Sunday afternoon.

The LGBTQ groups were treated with respect, and the crowd was predominantly controlled. Boston Police officers patrolled the route while people stood in large crowds and formed long lines outside various bars in South Boston, recording 10 arrests and 278 citations, mostly related to public drinking.

The decision to include LGBTQ rights groups this year was a significant moment in the city’s history, and creates a sense of closure for the years of controversy surrounding the historic festival. The support of prominent political leaders, including Mayor Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker, as well as military officials showed positive, public voice for ending two decades of debate. The inclusion of LGBT groups in the St. Patrick’s Day parade was a welcome addition to one of the city’s Irish traditions.

Featured Image Courtesy Of The Associated Press

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