This past Monday, LGBT people were again prohibited from participating openly in the nation’s oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Speaking on behalf of our community, Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, said: “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 organizers don’t think our family is good enough to join in the celebration.”
In our defense, important allies like Mayor de Blasio and NYC city council members refused to march in the parade. Meanwhile, corporate sponsors including beer manufacturers Heineken and Sam Adams dropped their parade sponsorship. It was great to see so much support from our allies, who believe that LGBT individuals and families should be able to celebrate, just like everyone else.
Perhaps the most (symbolically) meaningful support, however, came from none other than Guinness. The iconic Dublin beer brand, synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day, dropped its parade sponsorship after the celebrated Stonewall Inn announced that it would not stock or serve Guinness. Stonewall, known for its history of protests—most notably the 1969 riots that marked a turning point for LGBT civil rights—made a powerful statement. And it sure was heard, loud and clear.
Guinness soon ended its sponsorship of the parade, stating the following:
“Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. 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 As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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.”
What this means is that support for LGBT civil rights continues to grow and strengthen, and our voices are being heard.
While we know how to collaborate and protest, we also know how to celebrate and party! There were a number of festive LGBT celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day, despite being excluded from the parade. Hopefully next year, the parade organizers will come to their senses and we’ll be invited to march down Fifth Avenue in our gay green apparel. To adapt an old Irish saying, “May the road rise up to meet us!”