Orange County LGBT groups hopeful but skeptical after vote to include them in Tet parade

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News that organizers of Orange County's Vietnamese new year parade have agreed to include gay and lesbian residents has some in the groups hopeful, but still skeptical. 

Viet Rainbow of Orange County co-founder Hieu Nguyen said on Sunday that his organization was not surprised that the committee had reversed its decision.  

"We're optimistic and we're hopeful, although we know there is still work to be done. The vote is to include us," Nguyen said. "I'm not taking it as full inclusion and full equality yet. "

The Partnership of Viet Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organizations marched in past Tet parades when they were city-run, but were barred after a community federation took over in 2013. The federation said they feared the gay group would drive out other participants.

Saturday's  51-36 vote came a month after Westminster city councilmembers asked the head of the federation to meet with gay leaders to try to find a compromise for inclusion of the LGBT community in the county's annual Tet parade. But Nguyen says it's still unclear what that inclusion would consist of. 

"We'll need some clarity as to what we can do when we march in terms of carrying out the rainbow flag, our banner and our message of hope, family, unity, respect and community," he told KPCC. 

In particular, he said, several clauses in the federation's code of conduct seem open to interpretation. Nguyen pointed out one area in the parade's code of conduct states that:

The organizing community will not accept any form of political campaign which may cause controversy in the community such as banner, uniform, make-up, flag, music, gesture and activities... besides the purpose to preserve, to promote, and to improve the tradition of national humanitarian culture of the Vietnamese refugees all over the world.

Nguyen argued that he's concerned that and other clauses could be used to prevent gays and lesbians from participating as fully as they would like.

"If there's other groups that can carry their banner, that can carry their signs, can carry their flags — whatever flags they want to carry," he said, "then we would want to carry our flag and our banner."

The Lunar New Year event is scheduled for Feb. 1.

With contributions from The Associated Press

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