Things don’t get much more Boston than the St. Patrick’s Day parade that goes through south Boston every year.
But citing an exclusion of gay participants, the city’s mayor decided not to join one of the famously Irish city’s most famously Irish events on Sunday.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose parents were Irish immigrants, was keeping a promise not to attend after he failed to convince organizers to allow a gay veterans group to participate in the march.
“As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city,” Walsh said in a statement to local media. "Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible.”
Gay-rights groups haven’t been allowed to participate in the march, which is run by the Allied War Veterans Council, in an exclusion previously ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
That status quo, however, which has been in place since 1993, has been shaken as gay and lesbian equality issues have speedily won more support across the U.S. in recent years. (New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was expected to skip his own city’s St. Patrick’s Day March on Monday for similar reasons.)
According to the Boston Globe, Boston’s march was once a can’t-miss event for Massachusetts politicians, but out of dozens of national, state and local officials, only state Rep. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat, was expected to attend.
“It’s become South Boston’s toxic parade," Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan wrote Sunday, noting that corporate sponsors had also fled the event. "Every major company that St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers touted on their website as a ‘proud supporter’ of today’s parade is a supporter no more."
For its part, parade organizers said in a statement in early March that they declined an application from LGBT Veterans for Equality to march in the parade because “we were being misled by them,” and expressed fears that the group would bring a political message to the nominally nonpartisan parade.
“We are approached by all types of groups,” the committee’s statement said. “Some of which try to destroy the integrity of not only this parade, but our faith, this town and our Country. And to those we say, ‘No!, stay home, Not in my town.’ Rest assured, we will continue to exclude anyone that tries to compromise the public’s enjoyment of this parade.”
And so South Boston’s parade carried on Sunday without Boston’s mayor, and without the gay veterans, as a green-garbed mob cheered on the participants, which included survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.