The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade has finally ended the practice of excluding “gays and lesbians,” reports The New York Times. Marchers with rainbow flags participated in Sunday's event.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, a private group that organizes the 114-year-old parade, had banned gay groups from participating for decades, saying it was no place for people who were vocal about their sexual orientation. In 1995, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld what it said was the group’s First Amendment right to exclude whomever it wanted.
But that stance turned the parade into an annual battleground for the gay-rights movement, and it forced many Massachusetts politicians, including Boston’s mayor, to skip the parade, which is an essential part of Boston history and culture. Not only does it celebrate the city’s important Irish heritage, but the parade also honors a Revolutionary War holiday unique to Boston and its environs called Evacuation Day. On March 17, 1776, the Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, forced the British to retreat.