Saint Benedict Center’s floatSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.
Saint Benedict Center's float

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

DEVENS -- A Catholic school in Harvard has withdrawn from the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade, reacting to reports that a gay rights group will be allowed to march.

Brother Thomas Dalton, principal of the school at Saint Benedict Center, said the school does not want to appear to condone the homosexual lifestyle that is completely contrary to the church and what St. Patrick stood for.

"We decided years ago that if the gays ever marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, we would not march with our school or with the float that we provide with St. Patrick on it," he said.

Multiple media reports claim that parade organizers have invited MassEquality, the statewide advocacy group, to march this year.

But MassEquality has clarified in a statement that they have not reached a formal deal with parade organizers, and only learned about the invitation through a Boston Globe story.

Last night, the group met with a parade organizer, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been pushing for the group's acceptance into the parade. The group maintains that it will only march if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can march "openly and honestly," according to a statement from Executive Director Kara Coredini.

Coredini said no agreement has been reached, but there is an ongoing conversation.

"The fact that parade organizers are willing to have a continuing conversation with MassEquality about LGBT people and the parade is important and historic," she said in the statement.

The Globe story claims that the invitation stands on the condition that the group does not feature shirts or signs that concern sexual orientation.

But even if the group marched without any obvious LGBT signs, Dalton said the school would not change its mind.

"I think for us it's black and white," he said. "If they're in any way, then we're not going to be participating."

The school would have had its 45-member band march in front of a float carrying a few lower-school students. This year would have been the band's 25th year in the parade, according to a statement from the school band director.

Dalton said the students are disappointed, but are "very much behind" the school in its decision. If the advocacy group does not end up in the parade, he said the school would still like to be involved.

Walsh has threatened not to march in the annual parade if the group is excluded, although the new mayor has marched in the past.

Walsh said in a statement on Monday that last night's meeting between MassEquality and parade organizers was positive.

"I believe the conversation that took place in my office last night, and the conversations about diversity and inclusion that are taking place in our neighborhoods - and across our country - make our communities stronger," he said.

Walsh said the parties remain optimistic about a solution for an "inclusive celebration."

But Dalton said it was "too bad" that Walsh intervened.

"I think he knows better," he said. "He's Irish Catholic and he's not standing behind what the church believes and teaches."

Dalton said the school was disappointed to learn about the invitation.

"We think the organizers have been cajoled by the new mayor," he said.

The school also pulled out of the parade in 1991, when another gay rights group was also allowed to march, Dalton said.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council - the parade organizer - was eventually ordered to include the group in the parade.

Dalton said the school testified in the state's Superior Court back then, explaining the reason they pulled out.

But when the issue went to the Supreme Court with John "Wacko" Hurley as the plaintiff, all nine justices ruled in the council's favor.

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