The fifes and bagpipes were blown, while the kilts blew in the breeze with plenty of green to be seen all around, however the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade took place this year without the Guinness logo featuring as prominently as it had in previous years.
The reason for this was thanks to its multinational owner, Diageo, pulling the brand’s sponsorship of the event due to its disapproval of the parade’s long-controversial edict that anything pro-gay is off limits from being included. It also came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio let it be known that he wasn’t marching because of the parade’s anti-LGBT stance.
Gay marchers are not banned, parade organisers are quick to say, but anything identifying or supporting homosexuality is verboten.
“Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all,” the company said in a statement before the parade. “We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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 Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), which ran the parade up till 2002 before officially turning it over to The St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration Committee, Inc, was not happy with Diageo’s decision. “We regret that Guinness has seen fit to withdraw its sponsorship,” Brendan Moore, AOH’s national president, told The Drum. It isn’t clear what the financial loss of Guinness and fellow sponsor pullout Heineken will mean for the parade long-term. The only major brand left as a sponsor is Ford.
The pullout came as yet another milestone for American homosexuals to celebrate. Since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have followed, and legal battles over the issue are occurring in at least five other states. Two rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court last summer – one that said that married same-sex couples should also get federal benefits and another that allowed California’s same-sex marriage law to stand – were major victories for the gay community.
Even the Pope, while certainly never saying that he condones gay marriage, famously asked last summer, “Who am I to judge?” when discussing gays in the church. Previous Popes (and the entire right wing) certainly never had a problem judging before. Pope Francis’s new tone confused plenty of devout Catholics who had been told for eternity that gays were pretty much unacceptable in any form.
In Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, having openly gay folks march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been going on for decades. Irish gay activist/drag queen Panti Bliss has been in the parade and even has a number of people trying to get him named Grand Marshal. It may be a long shot, but it could actually happen. New York, generally seen as a pretty gay-friendly location, has a long way to go before a drag queen will appear in its lineup let alone lead it.
“I find it extraordinary that Irish-Americans can be so far behind the actual inhabitants of the island of Ireland,” homosexual Irish Senator David Norris told The Christian Science Monitor last week. “As an Irish man who through my mother has direct descent from the ancient kings of Ossory, Leinster, and the High Kingship of Tara, I find the claiming of the parade as an exclusively Roman Catholic festival – despite being originally founded in the U.S. by exiled Irish Protestants – completely ridiculous.” The parade was founded in 1762, three years after Guinness first started brewing. Norris knows a thing or two about gay rights; he’s the fella whose lawsuit led the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland back in 1993.
That kind of logic Norris provides isn’t appealing to conservatives. The Catholic League is now asking people to boycott Guinness, Heineken, and Sam Adams, which pulled out of the Boston parade this year for the same reason. “I have had my last Guinness and Sam Adams,” said Bill Donahue, the league’s leader, in a statement. “'I have had my last Guinness and Sam Adams. Heineken was always slop, so there is no sacrifice there. I urge Catholics, and all those who believe in tolerance, diversity, and the First Amendment, to join with me in boycotting these brews.”
On Wednesday, the League called the Guinness boycott its “top priority” and noted that it has “the time, the money, and the determination to conduct a full-court press.” In the League’s eyes, “Guinness wants to punish Catholics for holding to traditional moral values, and now they must suffer the consequences.”
It remains to be seen how many drinkers Guinness loses due to the boycott, a word the Irish invented in the late 1800s, but one big-name voice on the League’s side is Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted, “Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of religious parade bullied by gay orgs who try to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott the stuff.” Murdoch has close to 400 retweets on this but for every one voicing support, there is one that says something like @RyanWSinclair’s sentiment: “@rupertmurdoch Please go away. Turd is more pleasant than you are!”
Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of religious parade bullied by gay orgs who try to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott the stuff
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) March 17, 2014
@rupertmurdoch Please go away. Turd is more pleasant than you are!
— Ryan Sinclair (@RyanWSinclair) March 18, 2014
For every conservative lost though, Guinness, Heineken, and Sam Adams have likely picked up a fan or two on the pro-LGBT side. At New York’s Stonewall Inn, where the gay-rights movement was born during riots in 1969, the plan had been to dump barrels of Guinness off the roof on St. Patrick’s Day to protest its involvement in the parade. But then Diageo made the announcement and patrons could again feel comfortable ordering a pint or three.
“It’s amazing how the times are changing,” Carmine Tzavis, a Stonewall bartender, told the New York Post. “Thirty years ago, gay people had to hide in fear, and now look what we can accomplish.’’
Certainly the times have changed for Guinness, whose founder was known to be a religious man, according to Relevant Magazine. His grandson, Harry Grattan Guinness, whose own father had died in a duel, was known to borrow a line from Prince Albert of England: “Gentleman,” he’d say, “find out the will of God for your day and generation, and then, as quickly as possible, get into line.”
Both Guinness, and Heineken appear to have picked their line.