LGBT vets win council okay to march in South Boston’s St. Patrick's parade

Vote is 5-4; dissenter questions quorum count

A breakthrough in the decades-long impasse over the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers’ exclusion of gay and lesbian marchers appears to have been reached on Monday night after a petition by the LGBT veterans organization OUTVETS to march in next year’s parade was approved by a committee of South Boston veterans by a 5-4 vote.

However, at least one member of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council is disputing the vote’s validity, charging that the full membership of the committee was not on hand for the decision.

“The Supreme Court decision in 1994 still stands,” said Philip J. Wuschke Jr., a past commander of the council who is on the committee and attended last night’s meeting. “There will be no sexual contents in the parade and that’s where it stands.” Wuschke contends that there was no quorum at Monday’s meeting and because not all members had been notified, it was “an illegal meeting.”

Others, however, including Mayor Martin Walsh’s office, are hailing the decision as a clear-cut victory against an exclusionary policy. Said mayoral spokesperson Kate Norton in a statement released late last night: “We’re very pleased that OUTVETS will be marching in this year’s parade. Mayor Walsh has been advocating for an inclusive parade for quite some time. We’re thrilled to hear that the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council have decided to make the 2015 parade an inclusive event.”

Parade Commander Brian Mahoney, who called himself the “ultimate authority” on what happened at the meeting, confirmed that OUTVETS had won majority approval to march in the parade.

“The vote was a matter of discussion. It was an issue that lasted for more than an hour. People had legitimate questions and [Bryan] Bishop was able to answer them to the majority’s satisfaction,” Mahoney said of OUTVETS founder Bryan Bishop, who made a presentation to the veterans council but was not present for the Monday night vote.

“The group that gets in here now is a veterans group,” Mahoney said. “They say they have no social or political agenda. Others may want to read or put more into it, but we merely accepted a group of veterans who wanted to march to honor their service and all the veterans.”

Ed Flynn, son of former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn, was one of the five votes in favor of the LGBT veterans. Flynn says that the vote, which was held at the Thomas Fitzgerald VFW Post, was fair and will stand up to scrutiny.

“I voted in favor of the group allowing them to march,” said Flynn, who served as the parade’s chief marshal in 2013. “I just think any veteran, whether they are gay or straight, they served our country and served in military and put themselves in harm’s way. They should be given opportunity to march in the parade.

“We debated it before the vote and some people were for it and some against it. It was a respectful debate,” said Flynn. “I think Brian Mahoney and the South Boston elected officials provided strong leadership on the issue.”

Bishop said that Mahoney emerged after the meeting to deliver him the good news: "He said it was a 5-4 vote in favor and that he was the swing vote," said Bishop. "He said ‘your application has been accepted.’”

Bishop said that the council meeting was tense at times. “It was not cordial. I walked out of there and never felt that way before – it was like an interrogation," said the 46-year-old East Boston resident, a native of North Carolina. He is chief of staff to Francisco Urena, the city's commissioner of veteran services.

"I pled my case,” said Bishop. “My whole process is not to subvert. OUTVETS is non-political. We marched on Veterans Day [the first LGBT group to do so in the Boston parade ] and we were embraced by everyone." He added that the veterans group will not march with anything that explicitly says LGBT. “My banner has the colors of the rainbow on one corner. We are a veteran group."

For his part, Wuschke said he expected that those in dissent would consult with John “Wacko” Hurley, the Veterans Council’s lawyer. Hurley, the longtime council leader who championed the veterans’ position to deny gay groups entry into the parade in the 1990s, was not present at Monday meeting. He told the Reporter that he was sick and missed his first meeting in 50 years.

A breakthrough almost took place last year when another LGBT group based in South Boston claimed that they had reached an agreement to march with organizers. However, shortly after the news hit the media, parade organizers withdrew their invitation and drew a hard line against a compromise.

Asked if that is likely to happen again this year, Wuschke responded firmly: “Yes.”

Mahoney emphatically disagreed, lamenting, “Every year we go through this nonsense. This is not Brian Mahoney’s parade, not Phil Wuschke’s parade, not Wacko Hurley’s parade. This is a parade put on by the Allied Veterans War Council for the benefit of South Boston.”


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