Minh Tran, left, holds a sign and gay pride flag and Bob Tucker hugs his partner,… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)
A coalition of lesbian and gay Vietnamese groups was told to "sacrifice" and not march in Westminster's annual Tet parade, a Lunar New Year event expected to draw as many as 10,000 spectators to Little Saigon this weekend, a spokesperson for the coalition said.
The Tet parade, scheduled for Sunday, is a tradition dating back nearly three decades. Westminster officials played a key role in staging and funding the most recent events, and the LGBT coalition has marched in the parade the last three years -- over the objections of some religious leaders in Orange County's Vietnamese community. But this year, with the city struggling with a $10-million budget shortfall, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California stepped up to raise $60,000 to stage the event.
Last week, LGBT participants submitted $100 along with an application to again join the parade, according to Pierre Tran of the Gay Vietnamese Alliance. Although coalition members have not been given a final, official answer on the application, they said organizers who met with them Monday morning "told us to get our own permit and have our own parade. We can be behind their parade or in front of their parade.... That is just not acceptable," said spokeswoman Natalie Newton.
Monday afternoon, about three dozen people protested in front of the office of the parade organizers. The head of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, Nghia X. Nguyen, was not present to comment.
Ha Son Tran, federation vice president, declined to comment officially on the application or protest. But "speaking as an individual, I believe we have to weigh the interest of the community with the interest of one group," he said. The right to be gay "is not recognized universally, not like freedom of speech.... We respect their choice but this is not our tradition."
Supporters of LGBT Vietnamese disagree.
"We're here to support our brothers and sisters who are facing discrimination," said Kevin O'Grady, who heads the Center Orange County, which offers gay and lesbian community services. "I would hope that the Vietnamese open up and try to understand about broader civil rights."
Hieu Nguyen of Garden Grove said he's convinced many Vietnamese are accepting of the LGBT community. "What we have is a select group who is trying to exclude us -- not the whole community. My parents left Vietnam more than 30 years ago for freedom, and now they're trying to deny us freedom."