Parades honoring St. Patrick in Boston and New York have lost major support for excluding gays in a traditional parade that draws thousands of celebrants. Mayors of both major cities opted to sit out in support of gay and human rights.
The line of division is narrowing in some respects to gay rights and inclusion. Corporations, civic leaders and everyday citizens alike are being faced with taking a stance of yea or nay on issues. For St. Patrick’s Day parades, it boiled down to affirming or denying support for gay rights groups wanting to take part in annual procession. On the radar were Boston and New York.
It is rare that civic leadership does not take part in major cultural events. Generally, citizens can expect a quick opening speech, handshakes, and well wishes. However, because St. Patrick’s Day parades took place amidst controversy rejecting gays from carrying banners and flags in support of gay rights, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh did not attend Sunday’s parade.
Walsh decided to sit out and made an announcement Sunday, the day Bostonians were to take to the streets in a show of cultural pride. Walsh says as the mayor of Boston he has to “do his best” to make sure all Bostonians are able to take part fully in civic activities.
Likewise, on Monday New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, after hosting a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion. De Blasio said, “I will be participating in a host of activities honoring Irish heritage.” The mayor says he supports the “contributions” of Irish-Americans. He refrained from participating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is one of the largest annual St. Patrick’s Day parades on record. Losing major support for excluding gays may cause St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers to reconsider things next year.
In addition to civic leadership passing on the parade in support of LGBT rights, Boston Beer company, owned by Sam Adams, pulled sponsorship in Boston Sunday, with Heineken and Guinness pulling out of New York’s festivities Monday.
A Heineken USA spokeswoman says, “Heineken believes in equality for all.”
Guinness is a long time supporter of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD). They stood in support of groups hoping to march in the annual parade. Sarah Kate-Ellis president of GLADD says, “discrimination” should never be celebrated. She acknowledges the strong message that Guinness intentionally sent by pulling sponsorship.
New York’s Stonewall Inn Bar threatened to pour beer by the barrel from the roof in protest if Guinness failed to pull sponsorship, but they did not have to. In response to Guinness standing in support of gay rights, Stonewall bartender Carmine Tzavis, says “Times are changing, 30 years ago people were hiding and look what is being accomplished today.”
There are mixed views regarding the pulling of support for the parades; some people feel that the day should simply be about celebration of Irish love and community. “It isn’t about gay rights”; it is about honoring St. Patrick says Ray Brophy of Ireland.
Brophy, 50, believes Guinness should have turned a deaf ear to protesters.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians organizes the parade and were unavailable for comment. Organizers have a strong hand in honoring St. Patrick, opting to lose major support for excluding gays is a costly move. Proponents and opponents of openly gay community members participating in St. Patrick’s day parades with banners will have to wait until next year to see how much impact the “no to gays” stance has affected the annual celebration.
By C. Imani Williams