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Gay Community Allowed In Vietnamese Lunar New Year Parade

WESTMINSTER (AP) — After being sidelined from last year's Lunar New Year parade, gay Vietnamese Americans are planning to march with pride on Saturday in this year's event.

At least 70 people will march under the banner of gay and lesbian group Viet Rainbow of Orange County at the annual Tet parade in Little Saigon, said Hieu Nguyen, the organization's co-chair. Participants will show their Vietnamese heritage by wearing traditional dress and riding bicycles, and their sexual orientation and gender identity by carrying the rainbow flag.

"We're trying to tap into the memories and the hearts of the spectators and let them know we are Vietnamese American and we are LGBT as well," Nguyen said.

About 12,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the parade that will cut straight through the heart of the county's Vietnamese immigrant enclave in Westminster. For years, gay Vietnamese-Americans marched in the city-run parade but were barred from participating in 2013 when a community group began sponsoring the event to mark the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration known as Tet.

After prodding from city officials and community members, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California reversed course for 2014.

Participants have been asked not to carry flags representing specific organizations to keep the focus on those representing the United States and South Vietnam, said Neil Nguyen, the Federation's president. He said he hopes the event, which will feature historical performances, marching bands and school groups, runs smoothly.

"Hopefully everybody cooperates, not only LGBT but every group so we can bring joy and fun for everybody," he said. "The Tet spirit is happiness."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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