Citing support for gay rights, the mayors of New York City and Boston opted out of St. Patrick's Day festivities.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will become the first mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march Monday because parade organizers have refused to let participants carry pro-gay signs. On Sunday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, the city's first Irish-American mayor in 20 years, did not march in his city's parade after talks on allowing a gay group to march broke down.
And three major beer manufacturers dropped sponsorship of St. Patrick’s Day Parades — Sam Adams pulled out of Boston’s parade, and Heineken and Guinness yanked their support of the New York City parade. Both parades are allowing gay groups to march but are banning signage about sexual orientation.
Guinness announced Sunday that it would withdraw its support for New York City’s parade, saying it was an “advocate for equality for all.” The Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar where riots in 1969 gave birth to the gay rights movement, confirmed that it would serve Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, scrapping previous plans to stop selling the beer because of the sponsorship.
Sam Adams pulled its support after coming under pressure from Club Cafe, a Boston bar frequented by LGBT clientele. The bar threatened in a Facebook post on Thursday to stop pouring Sam Adams unless the company withdrew sponsorship.
And after GLAAD, the LGBT rights group, reached out to parade sponsors on Friday, Heineken dropped its sponsorship, saying that the company is "passionate about equality for all people."
Gay rights activists praised the beer companies’ decisions. “Today, Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees: discrimination should never be celebrated," GLAAD chief executive and president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
Despite the controversy, thousands of green-clad spectators came out for the parade in Boston to watch bagpipers, and organizers of a float intended to promote diversity threw Mardi Gras-type beads at onlookers. A similar scene played out in downtown Philadelphia.
On Monday, some LGBT groups protested the parade along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.
New York's parade, a tradition that predates the city itself, draws more than 1 million spectators and about 200,000 participants every March 17. It has long been a mandatory stop on the city's political trail, and includes marching bands, traditional Irish dancers and thousands of uniformed city workers.