I came across an interesting piece in the Dot Reporter about the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parades (there will be two) in South Boston.
As most of you know, with State Senator Jack Hart’s recent retirement, there will be a special election to fill his seat. The primary will be held, as in the U.S. Senate race, on April 30. The general election will take place on May 28, four weeks before the general in the U.S. Senate race. Three Democrats will appear on the ballot April 30. Two of them, State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry and Southie native and blogger Maureen Dahill, have stated that they will not march in the main parade unless GLBT groups are included. The third, State Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston, has taken a “split the baby” approach: he’s marching but accompanied by GLBT supporters (sans banner identifying them as such).
Notably absent from any leadership role in this discussion is Rep. Steve Lynch. Lynch was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1994, the year Wacko Hurley and the boys cancelled their parade rather than let the gays march in it. That year Lynch ran against incumbent State Rep. Paul Gannon in a Democratic primary. He proudly called himself the “conservative candidate” and based his campaign largely on Rep. Gannon’s insufficiently full-throated support of Wacko Hurley’s bigotry.
Nearly twenty years later, I’m not seeing much progress. Although Lynch, facing a statewide race, is now Mr.-I-support-equality-too (and our own David took me to task for questioning the sincerity of this conversion), he’s not putting his money where his mouth is. At our Newton Democratic Caucus on March 2, a member of my ward committee asked Lynch surrogate and State Sen. John Keenan (D-Quincy) if Lynch would ask the parade’s organizer (the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council) to abandon its decades-old policy of excluding GLBT groups. A few days later the Dot Reporter gave us the answer:
Congressman Lynch’s US Senate campaign said he is maintaining that parade organizers are allowed to decide which groups can march. “Congressman Lynch’s positions don’t change based on the office he’s running for,” Lynch campaign spokesman Scott Ferson said in a Saturday statement. “He has consistently maintained that this is a First Amendment issue, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that private parade organizers have the right to decide which groups can march. Congressman Lynch’s support of the First Amendment doesn’t change simply because he is running for Senate or because some candidates for office want to play politics.”
With all respect to Rep. Lynch and Scott Ferson, this is not a “First Amendment issue” at all. Surely Rep. Lynch is smart enough to understand that the Supreme Court’s ruling that the First Amendment gives the Council the Constitutional right to exclude GLBT groups does not mean that it must exclude them. Nor does it mean that it should exclude them. And it certainly does not mean that Steve Lynch lacks his own First Amendment right to say that it should not exclude them. He would in no way violate the Council’s First Amendment rights by stating that their exclusionary policy is wrong, and that he won’t have anything to do with their parade as a result. (This year, running in a statewide race, he’ll be marching in Holyoke rather than South Boston, but his spokesman said the Lynch campaign will have a “large presence” at the Southie parade.)
This weaselly hiding behind the Supreme Court puts Lynch in the company of none of the Democrats seeking his old State Senate seat. It does put him in the company of the presumptive Republican nominee in the First Suffolk, Joseph Ureneck, who called the issue “settled law.” It’s also “settled law” that white supremacists may march in Skokie; it doesn’t mean politicians have to march with them.
Lynch’s spokesman did point out the many ways in which, after a career of opposing same-sex marriage and hate crimes bills, the Congressman now supports the GLBT community. I am heartened to see that kissing Wacko Hurley’s proverbial ring is no longer considered good Democratic politics in the First Suffolk, and that Steve Lynch feels compelled to insist upon his pro-equality bona fides. But I am disappointed in Rep. Lynch’s utter failure to stake out a leadership position on this issue when it comes to the parade. He once again shows himself to be unworthy of being the standard bearer of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts.
This Bay Stater of Irish descent hasn’t gone to the “official” South Boston parade, which is out of touch with many Irish-Americans but also with mainstream opinion in Ireland, in twenty years. The Supreme Court upheld their right to choose “their message.” As long as their message is anti-gay and pro-dumb-war, I’m not going. But I’m proud to support the “second” parade sponsored by Veterans for Peace. For ten years now, the “official” Southie parade also has excluded Veterans for Peace, who quite rightly opposed the Iraq War. The organization’s South Boston chapter is run by Tony Flaherty, now 81, who served for nearly a quarter century in the U.S. Navy. His combat service in Vietnam affected him profoundly and prompted him to reconsider the ways in which our military is used. Those views were sufficient for his own best man, Wacko Hurley, to exclude him from the parade. So Veterans for Peace formed their own parade, which includes GLBT groups as well as activists for economic justice and environmental causes.
I hope that, this April 30, Democratic primary voters who believe in full equality for LGBT citizens will remember that not even the “new” and “evolved” Steve Lynch can find it in his heart to condemn in public, tepidly or otherwise, the ongoing discrimination of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council in its parade.