Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said that he will boycott the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade unless organizers allow LGBT groups to march in the event.
“Equality comes first,” the mayor said Wednesday. “The fact that it’s 2014, I certainly hope we’re able to come to an understanding. It’s long overdue.”
For nearly two decades, parade organizers have banned gay and lesbian groups from marching in the annual parade in South Boston. Walsh said he hoped to change their minds on the policy.
On Wednesday, Walsh met with parade organizers John “Wacko’’ Hurley, who won a unanimous 1995 Supreme Court case that allowed him the right to exclude gay groups, and Philip Wuschke Jr. at City Hall.
Walsh said the three discussed the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Supreme Court ruling, and the religious civil war in Ireland.
“We had a nice conversation,” Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, said. “We had a little Irish history lesson.”
Despite their conversation, parade organizers remained adamant about their decision, even arguing that the parade was in fact inclusive.
“No, definitely not,” said John Hurley. “Not when you have a 9-to-nothing decision in the Supreme Court of the United States. [Walsh is] not in a position to overturn that.”
“We’re not bigots,” Wuschke said, adding that gay individuals are allowed to march with other organizations. “It is inclusive. It’s a day of celebrating. It’s celebrating the Irish and the military.”
A gay veterans group sponsored by MassEquality hopes to participate in the event, and Mayor Walsh advocated for group’s admittance.
“If I march in that parade, I will be very happy,” Walsh said. “If I’m not marching in that parade, it will be unfortunate and it will be because of a couple of people who would not accept this application.”
Last year, Walsh marched as a state representative before running for mayor, but like Mayor Thomas Menino before him who has boycotted the parade since 1995 because it excluded gay rights groups, he does not plan to march this year.
“Marching as a state rep and celebrating my heritage is a little different,” Walsh said in an interview with The Boston Globe. “As mayor, I feel like I should use my influence. I feel the parade should be inclusive.”
Following suit with a fellow newly elected mayor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also said he will not march because organizers don’t let participants carry gay-pride signs. “I simply disgaree with the organizers of that parade,” de Blasio said earlier this month.
The Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade is scheduled for March 16.