New York's Empire State Building lit in green to mark St. Patrick's Day

New York’s Empire State Building lit in green to mark St. Patrick’s Day

Alcohol brands Heineken and Guinness have dropped their sponsorship of Monday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City because of its ban on gay families and groups.

On Thursday, Heineken told LGBT media watchdog GLAAD that it has pulled its sponsorship of the parade, stating that “we are passionate about equality for all people.”

It was shortly after followed by Guinness, which also announced that it had taken a similar decision. “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all,” said the Irish brewery.

“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 As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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 moves follow a boycott of the parade’s alcohol sponsors by some of New York’s prominent gay bars and nightclubs. The legendary Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, had earlier planned to drop Guinness beer from its shelves.

The Ford Motor company, however, has stood by its sponsorship of the controversial event. It said in a statement that while it will continue to take part in the parade, “Ford is proud of its inclusive policies” and that “we provide employee benefits regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis commented that, “The ban on gay and lesbian people marching openly forces me, as a proud Irish New Yorker, to look my five year-old twins in the eye and tell them that the parade organisers don’t think our family is good enough to join in the celebration.”

Last month, the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, stated that he would not march in the parade. “I simply disagree with the organisers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” he said.

The annual March 17 parade is the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the US and attracts around 150,000 participants every year. It is organised by a Catholic group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, under the St Patrick’s Day Parade Inc. company.

While the organisers cannot stop individual gays and lesbians from participating, they have refused to allow LGBT groups and organisations to take part.

In 1995, the US Supreme Court ruled that St. Patrick’s Day parades run by private organisations or companies are allowed to discriminate in their participation rules.

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