Rep. Lynch: Parade organizers have 1st Amendment right to decide who will march

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Mar. 2, 2013

A day after two state Senate candidates called for the inclusion of gay and lesbian groups in South Boston’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade, Congressman Stephen Lynch’s U.S. Senate campaign said he is maintaining that parade organizers are allowed to decide which groups can march.

“Congressman Lynch’s positions don’t change based on the office he’s running for,” Lynch campaign spokesman Scott Ferson said in a Saturday statement. “He has consistently maintained that this is a first amendment issue, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that private parade organizers have the right to decide which groups can march. Congressman Lynch’s support of the first amendment doesn’t change simply because he is running for Senate or because some candidates for office want to play politics.”

Lynch, a South Boston Democrat who represents Dorchester's coastal communities, will be marching in Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and will not be at the South Boston parade this year, as he campaigns across the Bay State for former U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s seat. The Lynch campaign added that they will have a “strong presence” in the South Boston parade, which is scheduled for March 17 and put together by the Allied War Veterans Council.

Ferson noted that Lynch, who was elected to Congress in 2001, is a “strong supporter of equal rights” for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. His statement pointed to Lynch’s co-sponsorship of a bill repealing the federal anti-gay marriage law known as the Defense of Marriage Act and the congressman’s vote to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” “He voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and helped secure gay-marriage rights in Washington, DC,” Ferson said.

Maureen Dahill, a South Boston Democrat running for former state Sen. Jack Hart’s seat, said on Friday that gay and lesbian groups should be included in the parade. State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a Dorchester Democrat and fellow candidate, said she agreed.

“St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and I think it’s time we move past what happened in the 90s,” said Dahill, referring to the 1995 Supreme Court ruling allowing parade organizers to choose which groups can march. In a release, Dahill had called on other candidates for public office to join her.

Rep. Forry, who is married to Reporter publisher and editor Bill Forry, said in a Friday statement, “For too long, our sisters and brothers and friends in the LGBT community have been told they are not welcome to join in the celebration.”

Other candidates running in the state Senate election include state Rep. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat, and Joseph Ureneck, a Dorchester Republican. Collins’ camp was not immediately available for comment.

The state Senate special election’s primary is set for April 30, the same day as the U.S. Senate primary. The state Senate race’s general election date is May 28, while the U.S. Senate election is on June 25. Congressman Lynch and Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) are facing off in the U.S. Senate election’s Democratic primary.