January 31, 2014 marks the beginning of the Vietnamese New Year, the year of the Horse. Unlike last year’s parade, this year the parade organizers have decided to allow the participation of a group representing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender members of the Vietnamese community.
On Saturday the parade organizers again met to vote on weather to include the participants from Viet Rainbow of Orange County, a community-based organization founded by Vietnamese-Americans with a diverse prism of sexual orientations and gender identities. The group aims for a more equitable, safe, and unified Vietnamese diaspora through advocacy, outreach/engagement, education, and supportive services.The vote was 51 in favor of inclusion, 36 against, and 10 abstentions.
According to the group’s Facebook page VROC states that its mission is to be “a community-based organization founded by Vietnamese-Americans with a diverse prism of sexual orientations and gender identities. Through engagement, education, advocacy, and supportive services we aim to empower our communities for a more equitable, safe, and unified Vietnamese diaspora and expand its voice in the broader society.”
Last year, the parade organizers, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California denied a request to participate in the parade by a different coalition of Vietnamese LGBT groups. The groups had participated for three years, without incident, in the parade. But once the VAFSC gained control of the parade from the City of Westminster, bigoted members of the group seized the opportunity to exclude the group that they felt did not properly represent the Vietnamese culture.
The Vietnamese Coalition of LGBT groups filed suit to be included, but their request was denied. Following the court decision a number of local elected officials including State Senator Lou Correa, and Westminster Councilman Sergio Contreras withdrew their participation in the parade.
At the parade itself, Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee Jose Solorio, got out of his parade vehicle and joined the LGBT coalition on the sidewalk and sent his parade vehicle on without him in it.
Westminster Mayor Tri Ta and Councilman Sergio Contreras were significantly involved in the negotiations between the two groups and helping them reach a compromise where all community members could be included in the parade festivities.
Viet Rainbow of Orange County leaders are cautious in their celebration of the decision of the parade organizers Saturday. In a Facebook post the group states:
Our fight for full inclusion and equality is NOT OVER! The parade organizers have applied a code of conduct that specifically marginalizes LGBTQs and it remains unclear if we will be able to FULLY represent both our Vietnamese American and LGBTQ identities. As it stands, we are not allowed to carry the rainbow flags and our message of love, respect, family, unity, and community.
We celebrated the vote for “inclusion” and at the same time remain cautious. VROC has always been about full inclusion and full equality. We cannot settle until our rights as human beings are fully realized.