Tags: MidPoint | Outvets | gay | military | march | St. Patricks | parade

OutVets: St. Pat's Parade, 'Vindication' for Gays in Military

By    |   Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015 06:03 PM

The founder of a gay group that made history on Sunday marching in the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade says the experience was emotional and overwhelming, and a "vindication" for people like him — military veterans who had to conceal their sexual identities while serving their country.

"I don't think it's even sunk in yet, the magnitude of what we did on Sunday," Bryan Bishop, a 20-year Air Force veteran and the founder of OutVets, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Tuesday.

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With a gay group also marching on Tuesday for the first time in the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade , Bishop said that spectators in Boston greeted his organization with cheers and thanks.

"Every single person who marched in our contingent was completely overwhelmed with emotion," he said.

Bishop said his group's inclusion
was doubly rewarding because Boston also celebrates March 17 as the day, in 1776, when the British Army fled the city — a milestone in the American Revolution.

But he noted it wasn't until 2011 that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people could serve openly.

Gays were unwelcome in the military as a matter of custom from the time of the Continental Army. The The prohibition against homosexual service members became policy during World War II and lasted until the implementation in 1994 of "don't ask, don't tell."

"They continuously served with honor and distinction," Bishop said of LGBT military personnel throughout U.S. history. "But still in the back of their minds, they were thinking that at any given time, they could be discharged from service for something as personal as who they love or who they share their lives with."

"What we saw on Sunday was a vindication," he said, calling the parade a recognition of the "legitimacy of those thousands and thousands of men and women who served this country honorably," including an untold number who died in combat while still in the closet.

Bishop said OutVets also marched in support of current, active-duty military personnel "who now can serve openly."

Participating in the parade "just starts a great many conversations, going forward, that hopefully will actually bring more equality to those … on active duty, and also reach out to those who haven't had the opportunity to have their stories told."

As in New York, in Boston the prospect of openly gay marchers on St. Patrick's Day met with some resistance. Parade organizers split over OutVets' application, with leadership of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council voting 5-4 in favor last December.

Bishop said that opponents of his group's inclusion "don't want to acknowledge it or see it, but the LGBT community, whether as a whole or the veterans of the LGBT community, we're just like everyone else.

"We raise our right hand as veterans and swear to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States of this country," he said.

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The founder of a gay group that made history on Sunday marching in the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade says the experience was emotional and overwhelming, and a vindication for people like him - military veterans who had to conceal their sexual identities while serving...
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Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015 06:03 PM
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