NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation)—Guinness USA, one of the major sponsors of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, withdrew its support on the eve of the event because of the parade’s ban on marchers bearing gay rights banners.
The March 17 parade has been a target of protests since 1991 when its organizers forbade gay and lesbian groups from carrying banners or any other insignia identifying themselves or referring to gay pride.
"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 posted on the site of the gay rights group GLAAD.
"As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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.
On the GLAAD site, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the group, said Guinness had sent a strong message rejecting discrimination.
"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," Ellis said.
"Hopefully, as parade organizers realize that anti-LGBT discrimination is not supported by sponsors, or many Irish New Yorkers, they'll see that families like mine should be part of the celebration."
According to a report in the New York Times, brewing company Heineken USA also withdrew its parade sponsorship on Friday and the Boston Beer Company dropped its support of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in that city, citing a similar ban on LGBT participation.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to march in the parade due to the parade’s exclusion of the LGBT community. In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh skipped his city's St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday when he couldn't negotiate a deal with organizers to allow gay rights groups to join.
Parade organizers 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. The organizers have argued that to do so would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage.