By Kenneth Harvey
Originally published on Advocate.com February 12 2010 2:30 PM ET
A parade celebrating Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, in Westminster, Calif., this weekend is embroiled in controversy as religious groups oppose the presence of LGBT groups at the event.
On Wednesday the Knights of Columbus and all 50 members of the Vietnamese Martyrs Council withdrew their participation from the parade in response to the registration of several LGBT Vietnamese groups from San Jose and Los Angeles, The Orange County Register reported.
"Local religious groups do not want to see homosexuals marching on the streets of Little Saigon," said Van Tran, president of the Vietnamese Interfaith Council of America, using the nickname for the area, home to many Vietnamese-Americans. "Gays and lesbians are not accepted by the Holy Bible. Homosexuality is also not accepted in 1,000 years of Vietnamese culture."
The city of Westminster organizes the parade and while religious groups may campaign for a ban of the LGBT groups, it is unlikely to happen due to nondiscrimination laws.
According to Greg Johnson, director of the city of Westminster's community services, Catholic groups have been the only organizations to pull out of the parade — leaving at least 90 groups and 1,600 people participating.
"If the parade were run by a nonprofit, they have more latitude in these cases," he said. "We're a city and we just don't fall under that category."
The Reverend Sy Nguyen, director of the Vietnamese Catholic Center, sent a letter of protest to Johnson.
"Parading members of Vietnamese gays, lesbians and transgender groups as part of Tet celebration is not only irrelevant to the meaning of Tet, but is perceived at best as a complete lack to sensitivity to the Vietnamese traditions, and at worst a cultural attack on the Vietnamese community here in Orange County," the letter said. "We want to send a message to them that we love them and want to protect them. But homosexuality — that's no good."
Members of LGBT organizations said they are marching in the parade to gain acceptance and educate the Orange County Vietnamese community about gay rights issues.
The Tet parade and festival is a celebration of the Vietnamese New
Year, marking the arrival of spring, based on the lunar calendar.