Guinness pulls sponsorship of New York parade over gay ban

Taoiseach plans to march in the Manhattan St Patrick’s Day event amid LGBT row

Boston Pride, an equal rights group, march with a rainbow flag during the Peace Parade in Boston yesterday. The parade follwed the traditional St Patrick’s Day Parade, which prohibits gays to march if they carry banners or signs proclaiming their sexual orientation. Photograph: Katherine Taylor/The New York Times

Boston Pride, an equal rights group, march with a rainbow flag during the Peace Parade in Boston yesterday. The parade follwed the traditional St Patrick’s Day Parade, which prohibits gays to march if they carry banners or signs proclaiming their sexual orientation. Photograph: Katherine Taylor/The New York Times

Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 07:25

Guinness has pulled its sponsorship of New York City’s parade joining with New York mayor Bill de Blasio in boycotting the event over the ban on openly gay and lesbian marchers.

The decision by the world-famous Irish brewing brand turns greater focus on Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s participation in today’s St Patrick’s Day parade, the longest and oldest in the United States.

Mr Kenny arrived in New York last night ahead of meeting Mr de Blasio this morning at his residence in New York before the Taoiseach marches with members of the New York GAA in the parade.

The New York mayor is skipping the parade over the organiser’s ban of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual participants carrying banners or the rainbow colours displaying their sexual orientation.

The move by Guinness USA to withdraw sponsorship follows the decision of Boston Beer Co, the maker of Sam Adams, last week to pull support from Boston St Patrick’s Day parade and Heineken to withdraw support from the New York parade.

“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 company said.

“As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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 Stonewall Inn, the iconic New York birthplace of the American gay rights movement, had said that it would refuse to sell Guinness due to the company’s refusal to drop its sponsorship of the parade.

“Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees, discrimination should never be celebrated,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the gay activist group GLAAD.

The speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, a close ally of Mr de Blasio, praised the three drinks companies for withdrawing their support from the parades over the gay issue.

“I want to commend Guinness, Sam Adams and Heineken for taking a stand on behalf of the LGBT community who should be able to march openly and proudly in the St Patrick’s Day parade,” she said.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh skipped yesterday’s Boston parade over the failure to agree a compromise with organisers permitting participants to carry LGBT banners into the parade.

The Taoiseach said after a St Patrick’s Day event in Boston yesterday that he didn’t have “any control over the conditions that are laid down by the organisers of the parade.”

“From that point of view, I have accepted the invitation and I am happy to walk in it,” said Mr Kenny.

Speaking alongside Boston mayor, Mr Walsh said that the situations concerning the two city’s parades were “a little bit different” as there were negotiations going on in Boston but not in New York.

The recently elected Boston mayor, the son of Co Galway immigrants and the city’s first Irish-American mayor in 20 years, said that it was “not a tough decision” for him to skip the parade. The decision came down to the refusal of the organisers not to allow a banner with the LGBT sign on it.