LGBT Community Set to Protest Exclusion From Tet Parade

Tet Festival (p)

Westminster's annual Tet parade.

With about a week to go before the annual Lunar New Year Parade on Feb. 10, a coalition of Vietnamese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups is concerned that organizers are preventing them from participating in the event.

LGBT leaders held a press conference last weekend to protest that they have not been granted access to the event and have already spearheaded an online petition.

A protest is planned today at 3 p.m. at 14550 Magnolia St. in Westminster at the offices of parade organizers.

“This is a clear violation of our civil rights on public land, and we are pursuing some of our options,” said Natalie Newton, a member of the support group O Moi, at the Saturday press conference.

“We’d rather not take this to a level of legal, extended court deliberations, however we do know our rights and see this as a violation of our civil liberties,” Newton added.

“We are your daughters, your sons,” she said, noting that there are many in the community who support equal rights for members of the Vietnamese LGBT community.

LGBT groups have participated in the parade since 2010. That year, several religious organizations spoke out against their participation, and two Catholic groups withdrew from the event.

This year, organization of the parade was assumed by Vietnamese community groups after the Westminster City Council cut funding for the parade to help close a $10.4-million budget deficit.

The Vietnamese-American Federation of Southern California (VAFSC) is leading the effort, helping to raise more than $60,000 in just two weeks to fund the event.

Yet there are questions about whether the LGBT community will be included.

The Partnership of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organizations submitted its application and $100 application fee on Jan. 28.

Parade organizers said they wanted to meet to “discuss their application” but failed to respond to phone calls and emails to schedule a meeting, Newton said.

Ha Huyen Thanh, president of the General Association for the Development of World Martial Arts, told the Vietnamese-language daily Nguoi Viet that his organization had its application accepted immediately.

“We've already participated in this parade three years in a row, so we're not sure what the problem is this year,” said Newton. “In terms of representing the community, we’re not convinced that [the organizing board’s] decisions necessarily reflect the whole Vietnamese-American community,” Newton said.

On Jan. 31, Neil Nguyen, president of the VAFSC and chaimanr of the event, emailed the LGBT groups to schedule a meeting for today.

One Vietnamese-American attorney has offered the LGBT coalition his services, although Newton stresses the group does not want to escalate the conflict.

Even if they won’t be able to participate in the parade, LGBT groups say, their members will be there to participate in and support the parade. The group also has a booth at the Tet Festival at Garden Grove Park, hosted by the Union of Vietnamese Students Association Southern California.

“We’re there first to celebrate the New Year in the most traditional way we can and second to bring understanding [to the community],” said Thanh Do, co-leader of the Gay Vietnamese Alliance (GVA) based in San Jose. “It’s a coming together of the Viet community, and we are one segment of the community.”

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