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BOSTON, 11 March 2017:
A group of gay veterans of the US military can march in this year’s Boston’s St Patrick’s Day Parade, parade organisers said yesterday – after an earlier move to exclude them sparked outrage and boycott threats in the liberal city.
The parade, one of the US’ largest honouring Irish-American heritage, had long excluded openly gay participants – saying that admitting them would conflict with organisers’ Roman Catholic beliefs.
In 2015, organisers agreed to allow the gay veterans’ group, OUTVETS, to march in the face of pressure from city officials and sponsors who pulled their financing.
The decades-long fight over inclusion in the celebration of the patron saint of Ireland was rekindled this week when OUTVETS said organisers of the 116-year-old parade told them they would not be invited back to the March 19 event.
Parade organisers said the group’s participation had conflicted with the event’s Roman Catholic heritage and caused some church groups to pull out of the march.
But following what local media said was an emergency meeting of the Allied War Council, which runs the parade, the group said OUTVETS would be allowed to march this year.
“An acceptance letter has been signed by the parade organiser to allow OUTVETS to march,” parade organisers said on Facebook on Friday.
A day earlier, parade organisers said they had objected to the group’s late application and its plans to march under the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement.
OUTVETS said it had received the invitation to return and was “actively reviewing it.”
The US Supreme Court in 1995 ruled that parade organisers had the right to exclude gay marchers.
But Americans’ attitudes on gay rights evolved over the following decades, particularly in Massachusetts, which became the first US state to legalise gay marriage, and local politicians and sponsors of the event called for gay groups to be included.
The Boston St Patrick’s Day Parade and city have had thorny relations in recent years. A federal judge in 2016 blocked an effort by mayor Marty Walsh to cut the three-mile (5km) parade’s length by half, a move to lower the cost of policing an event that draws tens of thousands of sometimes rowdy revellers.
In PATTAYA, Thai contestant Jiratchaya Sirimongkolnawin was crowned Miss International Queen 2016 at a contest billed as the world’s largest and most popular transgender pageant.
The 25-year-old beat 24 other contestants for the crown, with the second and third place going to contestants from Brazil and Venezuela, respectively.
The pageant, which brings together transgender people from around the world, was launched over a decade ago to help transgender women feel more accepted by society.
“It’s like a new category, but the gender already existed a long time ago,” said Jiratchaya, donning a white glittering and black side rim evening gown.
The contest, in its 12th year, was held at the Tiffany’s nightclub in the Thai seaside town of Pattaya, which is famous for its transvestite cabaret.
Like other beauty pageants, contestants paraded in national costumes, evening gowns and swimsuits. For many, the contest represents a springboard for future opportunities.
Thailand remains a largely conservative society, with no laws recognising same-sex unions though it has a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The 2016 show was postponed from November last year due to Thailand’s mourning period of its late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died at age 88 on Oct 13.