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St. Patrick's Day Parade Organizers To Hold Emergency Vote On Gay Veterans Group Ban

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Organizers of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade will hold an emergency vote Friday to decide if an LGBT veterans group will be included this year.

It's been two years since OutVets began marching in the parade, but the event's private organizer, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, now says the gay vets have actually been in violation of the parade's "code of conduct" - by displaying the rainbow on their logo.

"We don't allow the portrayal of one's sexuality and that's one of the issues we're trying to resolve," council member Tim Duross told WBZ-TV.

"I will not alter our logo," said OutVets founder Bryan Bishop. "If they want me to change the identify of this organization, to satisfy discrimination, absolutely not."

The council voted 9-to-4 Tuesday night to ban OutVets from the March 19 parade. That decision that prompted several politicians, including Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh to drop out.

"We are one Boston. We are so beyond this conversation," Mayor Walsh said.

This year's Chief Marshal, Dan Magoon, the executive director of Mass Fallen Heroes, resigned over the vote.

The Stop and Shop in South Boston also pulled its sponsorship of the parade.

Thursday afternoon, the Allied Council said in an emailed statement it has not officially notified OutVets they will not be allowed to march.

The group made note of its "Code of Conduct" in the statement.

The Council established the Code of Conduct to protect the theme and historic integrity of the Parade. Since its founding in 1901, the Parade has been a celebration of country, community, and the Catholic faith. The question at hand is not one of inclusion or discrimination. The Council is accepting of all people and organizations, but it will not permit messages that conflict with the overall theme of the Parade.

It should be noted that the Council's position on such issues is neutral and not one-sided. For example, previous displays of the Rainbow Coalition flag have led to the loss of support from Catholic organizations that had been in the Parade since the 1940's. Also, the Council routinely bars controversial groups from across the political spectrum. As with any large public event, there are groups who would seek to use the Parade as a platform for their own advocacy. The Code of Conduct was intended to reduce this risk, and to balance the expectations and concerns of participants and spectators alike.

The Council has received numerous vitriolic and hate-filled emails from people who are uninformed of the facts. This year, Outvets did not submit its application before the deadline. The Council sometimes makes exceptions for late applicants, but in order for Outvets to be considered for participation in the Parade, the Organization must address the Code of Conduct violation.

Thursday morning, Teamsters Local 25 president Sean O'Brien announced that the organization will not march in the parade.

"Today, Teamsters Local 25 is informing the St. Patrick's Day parade committee, that we are no longer participating in this year's parade unless OutVets is included in the line-up," said O'Brien. "Our Women's Committee has been proud to walk alongside our tractor trailer for the past several years, but if the organizers shut out certain organizations, the parade is no longer representative of the 11,000 members of Teamsters Local 25 and our families. I urge the committee to reconsider their decision to make the parade reflective of the city of Boston so that all can enjoy."

OutVets, an LGBT veterans group, marched in Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade in 2015. (Photo credit Julie Loncich/WBZ)

Mass Bay Credit Union also announced it won't be a parade sponsor.

Earlier in the day, OutVets issued a statement thanking supporters.

OutVets is humbled and moved by the outpouring of support from so many around the Allied War Veterans' Council's decision to exclude OutVets from this year's parade. We hope for a positive resolution to this situation. OutVets will continue to advocate for all Veterans who are looking for help. Our organization is one of inclusion. We foster a welcoming environment for all who have served, are serving or who are merely passionate about Veterans. 

The organization said it is working to organize an "informal gathering" on Sunday afternoon, though specifics have not been completed.

The annual St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston ranks high on the holiday list for many people.

"I'm Irish and I love St. Patrick's Day. I mean, it's right below Christmas," a man told WBZ.

The Allied War Veterans Council has a long history on this issue, including a 1995 Supreme Court ruling permitting the exclusion of gay marchers on free speech grounds.

Bishop wonders how many times this battle must be fought.

"We thought that Boston had, once again, moved beyond bigotry and discrimination," he told WBZ.

"We want to work things out. We want everyone in the parade," Duross said.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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