A Beer Backlash To LGBT Exclusion In St. Patrick's Parades

Beer makers Guinness and Sam Adams withdrew sponsorship from New York and Boston's St. Patrick Day parades, respectively, over the exclusion of openly gay, lesbian and transgender participants.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, parades, boycotts and beer. Guinness dropped its sponsorship of today's St. Patrick's Day parade in New York. Heineken also withdrew its backing. And Sam Adams pulled its support for South Boston's parade. As NPR's Margot Adler reports, the companies were reacting to parade rules that banned LGBT signs or banners.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Guinness, the Dublin-based company famed for its thick, brown stout, said in a statement from its Connecticut office that it has a strong history of supporting diversity. We were hopeful, it said, that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness, it said, has withdrawn its participation.

By the way, in Dublin, the St. Patrick's Day parade does allow openly gay marchers. While the sponsorship controversy was big media news, it wasn't on the minds of most parade-goers.

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ADLER: In New York City, hundreds of thousands of people lined Fifth Avenue, wearing everything green - hats, scarves, coats. Two tourists from Scotland were wearing large green Guinness hats but had no idea that the company had dropped its sponsorship of the parade. Others, like Mathew Lee, a bagpiper taking a break, didn't want to really talk about it.

MATTHEW LEE: It's interesting. I try to stay out of the politics.

ADLER: But some tourists from Ireland had lots to say. Eight women all originally from Dublin, although living in England now, were dressed head to toe as very green leprechauns. Cilla and Ginny O'Sullivan took on the argument.

CILLA O'SULLIVAN: I think it's really sad that Guinness aren't part of this parade today, because it's a big part of Ireland.

GINNY O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. Yeah, but they pulled out because the gays are not allowed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, no.

O'SULLIVAN: On one level, it's really good that they want this to be like an inclusive event.

Yeah, that one (unintelligible).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But on another level, Guinness is an icon, you know, for Ireland. It's worldwide. Everyone knows it. And it's really sad that they couldn't put their differences aside for one day in the calendar to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

ADLER: A block and a half down the street from the parade, outside Connolly's Pub, Donovan Ryan McKeever was having a smoke. I asked him what's his favorite beer.

DONOVAN RYAN MCKEEVER: My favorite beer, my favorite beer, Guinness. Today, it's Guinness. It has to be Guinness.

ADLER: But when I asked him and Bobby Generale, the guy standing next to him, what they thought about Guinness dropping its sponsorship of the parade because of the parade's policy on gay marchers, they said, they had no idea.

BOB GENERALE: That's all nonsense.

MCKEEVER: I only see - I didn't know until you told me now. I never heard.

ADLER: Ah, it's all nonsense?

GENERALE: That's petty stuff. I was actually just telling this guy right here - I just met him. I'm like, life isn't about money. It's about being happy, and today makes a lot of people happy.

ADLER: One place they will be happily drinking Guinness is the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, considered by many the place where the gay rights movement was born. The Stonewall Inn planned to boycott Guinness today. Now, they say they are looking forward to serving it. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

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