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17 Mar, 2014 08:27

Guinness boycotts St. Patrick's parade in NYC over LGBT bans

Guinness boycotts St. Patrick's parade in NYC over LGBT bans

Several brewers, including Guinness, said they were refusing to sponsor St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York and Boston, while mayors of the cities canceled their participation in the events, after gay people weren’t allowed to march under LGBT banners.

Irish brewer Guinness, a key sponsor of the New York City parade, announced on Sunday afternoon it was withdrawing its participation.

“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 statement by brewer’s parent company, Diageo, reads. “We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy.”

A few days earlier, two more brewers dropped their sponsorship of St. Patrick’s parades over the gay rights issue: Heineken in New York and Sam Adams in Boston.

Parade organizers have not just faced economic pressure, political tension has also run high, as Boston's Irish-American mayor, Marty Walsh, decided not to visit the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, having failed to persuade organizers to allow gay and lesbian activists to march openly.

"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,” Walsh said as cited by Reuters. “Unfortunately, this year, the parties were not able to come to an understanding that would have made that possible."

Spectators in costume watch the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts March 16, 2014.(Reuters / Dominick Reuter)

Last week New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not take part in the parade on Monday, also citing the ban on open participation by LGBT community members.

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.

Despite controversy surrounding the event and pressure from LGBT rights lobby, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attended Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast on Sunday and said he planned to march Monday in New York.

"The St. Patrick's Day parade [in New York] is a parade about our Irishness and not about sexuality, and I would be happy to participate in it," Kenny said in Dublin before leaving for the US, according to AP.

The view is hardly shared by most US politicians, as organizers of St. Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston have in recent years felt increasingly pressurized into allowing openly gay marchers, as more and more local officials decline to take part in the parade.

Members of the Quaboag Highlanders Pipes and Drums prepare to march down Broadway during the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts March 16, 2014..(Reuters / Dominick Reuter)