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Vietnamese gays return to Lunar New Year parade

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (AP) -- After being sidelined from last year's Lunar New Year parade, gay Vietnamese Americans marched with pride on Saturday in this year's event.

At least 70 people marched under the banner of gay and lesbian group Viet Rainbow of Orange County at the annual Tet parade in Little Saigon, said Hieu Nguyen, the organization's co-chair. Participants showed their Vietnamese heritage by wearing traditional dress and riding bicycles, and their sexual orientation and gender identity by carrying the rainbow flag.

Spectators showed their support by waving both the rainbow flag and the red-striped flag of South Vietnam.

“We're trying to tap into the memories and the hearts of the spectators and let them know we are Vietnamese American and we are LGBT as well,” Nguyen said.

About 12,000 spectators turned out for the parade that cut straight through the heart of the county's Vietnamese immigrant enclave in Westminster. The event also featured historical performances, marching bands, school groups and more than 30 floats.

For years, gay Vietnamese-Americans marched in the city-run parade but were barred from participating in 2013 when a community group began sponsoring the event to mark the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration known as Tet.

After prodding from city officials and community members, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California reversed course for 2014.

“It was a hard-won battle and I'm happy that they can be included this year,” spectator Mark Davis, of Garden Grove, told KABC-TV.

Participants had been asked not to carry flags representing specific organizations to keep the focus on those representing the United States and South Vietnam, said Neil Nguyen, the federation's president.

“Hopefully everybody cooperates, not only LGBT but every group so we can bring joy and fun for everybody,” he said. “The Tet spirit is happiness.”

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