SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton plans to march with OUTVETS in the St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday in South Boston in a show of pride for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members and veterans.
“This is very significant,” Moulton said in an interview. “I believe gay rights is the civil rights of our generation. I’m proud to be a veteran, so it made sense to march with them in the parade.”
OUTVETS not only honors the service and sacrifice of active-duty service members and veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and those questioning their sexuality, but all veterans and their families, according to the group’s commander, Bryan Bishop.
Membership in the group is open to gay and straight veterans and active-duty personnel.
The participation by OUTVETS in South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade marks the first time a group representing LGBTQ veterans has been approved to march. The Allied War Veterans Council of South Boston notified the group in February they were approved to participate. The parade takes place this year on Sunday, March 15.
The Marblehead native and Harvard University-educated Moulton served four tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines between 2003 and 2008. He has made service to others a theme of his campaign and his short time in Congress.
The inability of gays and lesbians to serve openly amid the former policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was an issue that bothered Moulton while he was in the service. The policy, which ended in 2011, prohibited gay and lesbian military personnel from serving openly, but they could serve closeted.
“I thought ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a bad policy,” Moulton said. “The most important value we were taught in the Marines was integrity. So we forced people in the Marines to lie about who they are. I think we all knew gay service members. They fought hard and did a job just like everyone else.”
Bishop, an Air Force veteran and OUTVETS founder said he is honored Moulton wanted to march with his group in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“I’ve been following Seth all the way through his congressional run,” Bishop said. “I said to myself: ‘Look at him, he’s going to go places.’” Bishop said he was humbled by Moulton’s desire to participate, calling him “a breath of fresh air.”
However, the group is nonpolitical and nonpartisan.
“Our agenda is honoring veterans,” Bishop said. For Moulton to march with the group, he had to join OUTVETS and wear its uniform. The group not only honors the sacrifices of LGBTQ veterans, but of all veterans, Bishop said.
“We are 100 percent inclusive,” Bishop said, “not exclusive.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.