The Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California voted earlier today to allow LGBT organizations to march in the 2014 Tet Festival in Westminster, the same parade such groups were banned from last year and had been demonized in previous years. The vote comes after an earlier vote banning the organizations from this year's festival. However, a re-vote was scheduled following a meeting moderated by Westminster Mayor Tri Ta and Councilmember Sergio Contreras between members of the federation and Viet Rainbow of Orange County (VROC), a non-profit organization working towards equity and unity in the Vietnamese diaspora.
"I think the outcome was great," said Phong Ly, former president of UVSA (Union of Vietnamese Students Association of Southern California, the group that holds the largest Tet festival in the country) and president of Phan Boi Chan Youth Association. "Some people have called it a victory, but I don't think it's a victory for one group or individual. It a victory, a big step forward for our community that we can open our hearts to love."
The final vote was 51 votes for inclusion versus 36 against, with 10 abstaining. Earlier in 2013, the federation voted 21-47-7, excluding LGBT groups. In 2012, the federation voted unanimously to ban the groups from marching, drawing protests from LGBT allies. Before 2012, the City of Westminster organized the event.
The meeting, held at the Thu Vien Việt Nam cultural center in Garden Grove, saw a full audience, with attendees from religious, community and student organizations. Before voting, community members offered their comments for roughly an hour, many disapproving of VROC's conduct before the meeting. Ta and Contreras were both present but did not make comments.
"[I am] extremely pleased to see our community come together," Contreras said by email following the vote. "I look forward to celebrating the new year with the entire community. I also want to thank both sides for coming to the table and finding common ground. It was a win/win."
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As the vote concluded, Parade Chairman Neil Nguyen handed VROC co-founder Hieu Nguyen a float application.
"We always knew that equality would eventually win," said Hieu. "Since the beginning, we've always wanted to be a part of the parade to represent our Vietnamese American identity and our LGBT identity. We're happy we get this chance."