By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - The leader of a Boston group of gay U.S. military veterans said on Tuesday his organization had reached a deal to march in the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, which has long banned openly gay groups.
But at least one high-ranking official on the Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the parade, denied a deal had been reached to end the stalemate, which this year caused a major sponsor pullout and the city's first Irish-American mayor in 20 years to skip the event.
Bryan Bishop, who heads the Outvets group representing gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual vets, said it won approval from organizers on Monday night to participate.
"It was less than cordial, because there were a lot of concerns there, but I tried very hard to explain to them that this is not a splinter group, that we are veterans and happen to be gay," said Bishop, who served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and is now chief of staff at Boston's Department of Veterans Services.
"This is over," Bishop said in a phone interview. "We will march on St. Patrick's Day."
One top official at the Veterans Council confirmed the decision to the Boston Globe.
"To us, it's a group of veterans that wanted to march and deserved to be honored," the newspaper quoted the group's commander, Brian Mahoney, as saying. Mahoney could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
But another high-ranking member of the committee that organizes the century-old parade denied an agreement had been reached.
"There was no decision made," said Phil Wuschke. "If we can get a quorum together and we have to put it out in writing what we are going to be voting on, then we get the members in and we will then vote. But not until then."
Boston and New York, home to the United States' best-known St. Patrick's Day parades, are among the most liberal cities in the nation and parade organizers' policies of banning openly gay marchers have long rankled local Democratic officials.
Parade organizers contend that allowing openly gay groups to march would violate their Roman Catholic beliefs.
This year, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and New York's Bill de Blasio skipped their cities' parades in protest.
Major financial sponsors Guinness and Heineken dropped their backing of New York's parade while Sam Adams cut financial ties to Boston's over the issue.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu)