Brewers Boycott St. Paddy's Parades Over Gay Rights

Diageo’s Guinness brand yesterday joined Sam Adams and Heineken in withdrawing sponsorship of St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston because of organizers’ bans on LGBT groups displaying any messages more supportive or controversial than “Erin go bragh.”

“Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade,” the brewer said in a statement reported by CNBC. “As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy.”

Earlier, New York’s Stonewall Inn announced it would remove all Guinness products from its historic premises at an event scheduled for 1 p.m. today, Andy Towle reported on the Towleroad blog. It reversed that decision following Guinness’ withdrawal from the parade, the Daily Mail reports

“Today, Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees; discrimination should never be celebrated,” GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement posted on the organization’s website. “As a gay mom who has fond memories of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it saddens me that I can’t give those same memories to my own kids because my family isn’t welcome.”

In that statement, Seth Adam, GLAAD’s senior manager of communications, writes: “Ford Motors remains the last major American corporation to continue its support of the discriminatory parade.”

Adam cites a statement Ford made to CNBC last week saying that “no one person, group or event reflects its views and reaffirming its inclusive policies.”

“Representatives for the New York board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which has run the parade for more than 150 years, could not be reached for comment on Sunday afternoon,” Reuters' Elizabeth Barber writes.

“Parade organizers have explained they did not actually ban gay groups from marching, but did not allow them to carry LGBT signs and banners, as that runs contrary to Roman Catholic values, which many in the Irish community uphold,” reports RT.com. 

Earlier yesterday, Reuters' Barber reports, “Boston Mayor Marty Walsh skipped his city’s parade when he couldn’t negotiate a deal with organizers, the conservative Allied War Veteran’s Council, to allow members of MassEquality, one of Massachusetts’ largest gay activist groups, to join.”

“So much of our Irish history has been shaped by the fight against oppression,” Walsh said in a statement.

He was joined by at least 45 other local politicians in boycotting the parade, MSNBC’s Anna Brand reports, as well as by the Boston Beer Co., brewer of Sam Adams, which said in a statement Friday: “We share these sentiments with Mayor Walsh, Congressman [Stephen] Lynch and others and therefore we will not participate in this year’s parade.”

On Thursday, Club Café, a restaurant and dance club in Boston’s South End, said it would stop serving Sam Adams because of its support of the parade in a public letter posted on it Facebook page, Boston magazine’s Steve Annear reports.  

Shortly after Sam Adams said it was withdrawing from the Boston parade, Heineken told CNBC: “We believe in equality for all. We are no longer a sponsor of Monday’s parade,” Reuters’ Anna Hiatt reported

Last month, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced he was boycotting the parade in a protest over its ban on marchers who carry gay-pride signs, Erin Durkin and Corinne Lestch reported in the New York Daily News.

“It’s a pretty genius move to take away the second most important part of St. Patrick’s Day to make a legitimate point,” writes Jezebel's Isha Aran. “Still, it’s unfortunate that people quite literally need to be forced into sobriety to understand how ludicrous the anti-LGBT sentiment really is.”

Organizers of Sober St. Patrick’s Day might argue that stereotypes of all stripes and colors are ludicrous.

Organizations evolve. They evolve more quickly under financial pressure. It will be instructive to see if the loss of sponsors’ dollars prompt parade organizers in Boston and New York to modify their positions in coming years even if the words of elected officials haven’t.

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