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Guinness pulls out of NY's St. Patrick's parade over ban on gays

Guinness Drops Sponsorship of Parade Over LGBT Policy

(Reuters) - Irish brewer Guinness said on Sunday that it would not participate in New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade this year because gay and lesbian groups had been excluded, costing organizers a key sponsor of the annual event.

The move came on the same day that Boston's Irish-American mayor skipped that city's St. Patrick's Day parade after failing to hammer out a deal with organizers to allow a group of gay and lesbian activists to march openly.

"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 written statement issued by a spokesman for its parent company, Diageo.

"As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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," Guinness said.

Last week New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not march in the parade because gay and lesbian activists had been again precluded from taking part.

The loss of Guinness, one of the world's top beer brands originating in Dublin, Ireland, appeared to ratchet up the pressure on organizers even further.

On Friday, two other major beer companies, Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co and Heineken dropped their sponsorship of parades in Boston and New York, respectively, over the issue.

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

Earlier in the day 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, the city's first Irish-American mayor in 20 years, said in a statement.

"As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city. Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible."

Despite Walsh's boycott, other prominent Democratic Boston politicians, including Representative Stephen Lynch, marched in the parade, which drew tens of thousands of spectators, some of whom expressed disappointment at MassEquality's exclusion.

"It's supposed to be a time when everyone can come together," said university student Jeyashri Sridhar, 18. "It's sad that people can't participate because of who they are."

Organizers of St. Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston, among the most liberal-leaning cities in the United States, have come under increasing criticism in recent years for banning openly gay marchers.

Parade organizers argue that to do so would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage. The Catholic church contends that homosexual activity is immoral.

While MassEquality did not participate, the parade was not without gay marchers.

South Boston resident Randy Foster, along with his husband Steve Martin, organized a diversity-themed float that sported rainbow flags but no direct gay rights messages. Foster said the flags represented the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in Irish lore, though he acknowledged the gay-rights movement uses a rainbow flag.

"If there's a dual message to it, we're OK with it and so are the parade organizers," said Foster, 48. "We made the point of not making it a gay float. If we're going to have a message of inclusion, it shouldn't be for one group."

Massachusetts in 2003 became the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage. Attitudes on gay marriage have changed markedly across the nation since then, with 17 states and the District of Columbia now allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Join the discussion

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dlnrjm March 17 2014 at 8:50 AM

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
skydanzer400 March 17 2014 at 8:54 AM

I find it interesting Guiness is taking a stand on this issue yet seemed okay with having their banners prominently displayed at a dog fighting ring.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
John March 17 2014 at 8:55 AM

(YAWN) Who really cares what politicians say or think.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
babyloie1 John March 17 2014 at 9:10 AM

It's that kind of thinking that brought in HITLER!!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ALLEN March 17 2014 at 8:59 AM

Ha, suckers! They got you talking about it, thats a good ploy for Guinness, Duck Dynasty and Restaurants etc.., for free advertisment. Just use the Gay band, Leave it alone its BS.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jwosr98 March 17 2014 at 8:59 AM

The Irish instead of drinking Guinness today should dump it in the street.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
cmclaura March 17 2014 at 9:00 AM

Damn it, this is an Irish parade. If you're going to be in this parade, you should ought to be Irish. If you're not, you should at least pretend to be. And, if you're pretending to be Irish, you've no need to be flying a flag for ANY group, company, cause or whatnot. Just enjoy the day and the parade and stop fighting and trying to be politically correct for a few hours. Narrow mindedness has ruined it for all.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
3 replies
bdhauto March 17 2014 at 9:00 AM

Plenty of other beer that I can buy but I did like guiness and sam adams

Flag Reply +9 rate up
medicalmanage March 17 2014 at 9:00 AM

SAM ADAMS is crap beer anyway

Flag Reply +8 rate up
eagleman4 March 17 2014 at 9:02 AM

To have a religion, chastise, belittle, condemn, restrict what a vast, all knowing, All Truth Creator has made is a bit sacrilegious, don't you think.? Gays are never restricted within our pow wow celebrations. We also historically took in runaway Black Slaves, gave them solace and a new life. I'd rather be a Sioux Indian when I enter the Spirit World Beyond where Wahshichu (White Man) laws and churches will not prevail. I do not think Great Spirit allows such dispassionate ignorance there.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Kevin Caldwell March 17 2014 at 9:05 AM

Is that how our country is going to work from now on. If you don't like someone or something about them you boycott, protest them. If that's how we are going to roll from now this country now has a short shelf life.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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