Don't look now, but after decades upon decades of exclusion, a group representing gay Americans is finally going to march in one of the country's biggest, most noteworthy parades. That's right — gay veterans will march in Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade this coming year, for the first time in the event's history. It's a victory for equality, and for Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who boycotted the parade last year, along with a number of local businesses and companies.
For years, this has been a subject of controversy, and it somewhat boiled to a head last spring. At the center of it all lies with the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, the group which designates what organizations will march in the parade each year. Outrageously, especially considering we're talking about, you know, veterans, the Council has long been opposed to allowing any representation of the LGBT community into the parade, even going so far as to secure their right to exclude from the Supreme Court back in 1995.
Now, however, they've apparently had a change of heart, voting 5-4 to allow OutVets, a group representing lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual veterans, to march. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer points out, OutVets marched in Boston's Veteran's Day parade this year, so it's high time the St. Patrick's Day parade followed suit.
It's perhaps a testament to the power of changing social norms that OutVets is finally getting in on the act — after all, 2014's been a year of unmatched progress in the realm of same-sex marriage, and opinion polling on various LGBT issues appears to be trending in positive ways. Of course, until as recently as 2011, LGBT servicemembers weren't even allowed to be honest about themselves while in the armed forces — thanks to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, admitting you were gay while in the military was a dischargeable offense.
Now, however, things are somewhat more enlightened. And while you could easily make the case that this is a minor step in the broader struggle for LGBT inclusion — New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade, also a longtime excluder of LGBT marchers, will be changing course in 2015 as well — it's nonetheless something that has to happen, and looked glaringly awful while it didn't. So take heart in the knowledge that if you're in Boston for the parade this year, you can eat, drink and be merry, all guilt-free.