Guinness Resumes Sponsorship Of St. Patrick’s Day Parade Despite LGBT Community Protests

Gilbert Baker, designer of the Rainbow Flag, holding a “Boycott Homophobia” banner at the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK LENNIHAN
Gilbert Baker, designer of the Rainbow Flag, holding a “Boycott Homophobia” banner at the 2014 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK LENNIHAN

Last year, Guinness joined Heineken and Sam Adams in dropping their sponsorship of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade because of its prohibition against LGBT groups participating. In 2015, the parade’s committee is allowing one LGBT group — and only one — to march in the parade, which has prompted Guinness to resume its sponsorship.

In a statement provided to ThinkProgress and other outlets, Guinness and its parent company Diageo expressed “delight” at the change. “We are delighted to announce that Guinness has made the decision to resume its sponsorship of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade,” the Diageo-Guinness statement read. “While there is still work to be done, we are pleased that the parade organizers have taken steps to allow the LGBT community to be represented. The parade is an important way for Guinness to support the Irish community, and we look forward to celebrating with millions of New Yorkers on March 17th.”

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The one LGBT group that the parade is admitting this year is OUT@NBCUniversal, the LGBT employee resource group for NBC, which broadcasts the parade. Other LGBT groups were not impressed with the inclusion, with the Empire State Pride Agenda calling it “a far stretch from the full inclusion we deserve.”

GLAAD, which last year was working with New York gay bars like the Stonewall Inn to organize a Guinness boycott before it withdrew its sponsorship, told ThinkProgress that it will continue to pressure the parade committee. “Until all are welcome — especially LGBT Irish groups, who have worked for decades to bring fairness to Fifth Avenue — parade organizers must be held accountable to ending this ban once and for all,” the group stated. A spokesperson for the Stonewall Inn could not be reached for comment about whether it might reconsider its boycott threat. In the meantime, neither Heineken nor Sam Adams have announced whether they will sponsor this year’s parade.

Irish Queers organizes the yearly protests of the parade. John Francis Mulligan, an activist with the group, described Guinness’ decision as a “flip-flop,” telling ThinkProgress that Guinness “never even talked about it with Irish Queers. Pushing us off to the side is exactly what the parade committee does.” The group continues to denounce the parade committee’s inclusion of OUT@NBCUniversal as a “cheap trick,” nothing more than a deal cut with another sponsor. In an op-ed in City Limits on Monday, Irish Queers activist Emmaia Gelman points out, “Even last year, when the loss of corporate sponsorships finally forced a reckoning, they still couldn’t bring themselves to talk with the handful of Irish LGBT groups who want to march.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is continuing to boycott the parade this year. On Sunday, he marched in the “St. Pat’s for All Parade” in Queens instead.