LGBT Exclusion Costs St. Paddy's Parades
BY Michael O'Loughlin
March 17 2014 1:10 AM ET
The makers of Samuel Adams, Heineken, and the beer perhaps most associated with St. Patrick's Day, Guinness, pulled their sponsorship of St. Patrick's Day parades in Boston and New York this weekend.
On Sunday, Guinness announced that it would no longer sponsor the parade, heeding off threats of boycotts from New York City gay bars.
"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," a Guinness representative told GLAAD Sunday. "As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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."
The iconic Stonewall Inn and other gay bars in New York City had planned to stop serving Guinness beginning on St. Patrick's Day, a move they called off upon learning the news.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of CEO of GLAAD, praised the decision in a statement.
"Today, Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees: discrimination should never be celebrated," she said.
Heineken announced on Friday that it would not sponsor New York's main parade on 5th Avenue. A representative told CNBC that the company believes "in equality for all. We are no longer a sponsor of Monday's parade."
New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not march in Monday's parade, marking the first time in two decades that New York's parade won't have the city's chief executive present.
“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city, but I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade,” de Blasio said at a press conference last month.
De Blasio did, however, march in an alternative parade in the Queens borough of New York earlier this month. That parade, St. Pat's for All, welcomes LGBT participants.
In Boston, as reported Friday in The Advocate, Boston Beer Company, the maker of Samuel Adams, released a statement alluding to their namesake's commitment to free speech in making their decision not to participate in Saturday's parade in Boston.
"Our namesake, Samuel Adams, was a staunch defender of free speech and we support that ideal, so we take feedback very seriously," the company said in a statement. "The majority of our commitments are year-to-year, and we will continue to evaluate each organization and event before making additional contributions."
At least one bar in Boston, the Cornerstone Pub, is dumping Sam Adams because of its parent company's decision to withdraw support from the parade.
The Boston Herald reports that the bar's co-owners, brothers Thomas and John Flaherty, were surprised by the company's decision.
"Sam Adams doesn’t support South Boston," Flaherty's son, Tommy Flaherty Jr., told the Herald. "They don’t want to support veterans like my father and uncle, so they can go sell their beer elsewhere."
The mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, sat out Sunday's parade in protest of the exclusionary policy.
“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,” Walsh said in a statement released Sunday.
Sunday's Boston Globe ran a story highlighting a "diversity float" in Boston's parade, complete with rainbow-colored banners, that was crafted by many openly gay people who was allowed to march.
“They know us as their neighbors first and as gay second,” Randy Foster, a gay Air Force veteran helping to build the float, said to the Globe. Of outside gay groups coming in and hoping to march, he said: “How in the world do you ever get compromise if the first statement out of your mouth is, ‘I'm different than you?’ ”
Coincidentally, Guinness produced an advertisement in 1995, deemed too controversial to air at the time, showing two men gay completing their morning routines together, according to Business Insider.