Sponsors Support LGBT Equality; Why Won't St. Patrick's Day Parades?

Major beer companies bow out of Boston and New York over LGBT open march rules.

What's a St. Patrick's Day parade without a black and tan? Revelers in New York found out Monday (March 17) when they took to the streets without one of the march's longtime sponsors, Guinness.

The brewer of the famously hearty Irish brew announced that they are dropping their sponsorship of the New York parade because of its ban on allowing openly gay marchers to participate. "Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all," read a statement. "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 As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation."

Reacting to long-time bans that freeze LGBT groups from openly marching in some of the nation's biggest St. Patrick's gatherings, Guinness has some company this year in drawing a rainbow line in the sand.

Boston At Lager-Heads

New York won't be the only city to feel the pinch this year. After years of conflict between LGBT groups who want to openly march and organizers who freeze them out, several other major brewers are pulling their support as well.

Boston Beers (makers of Sam Adams), pulled out of Sunday's parade in Boston, citing similar reasons, according to a Reuters report. And Heineken said it was bowing out of Monday's New York gathering as well. Both of those parades allow gay groups to march, but ban any signs or messages about sexual orientation.

"We believe in equality for all. We are no longer a sponsor of Monday's parade," Heineken told CNBC.

The longtime bans have drawn wider protest this year, including from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced he would not march this year out of solidarity with LGBT groups and instead walk in Queens' gay-friendly St. Pat's For All Parade. Boston's mayor also vowed not to attend his city's parade until LGBT groups can openly march.

The Guinness and Heineken pull outs left the Ford Motor Company as the only major U.S. company sponsoring the 252-year-old New York parade that typically draws 1 million spectators.

"Ford Motor Company is involved in a wide range of events and organizations in communities across the country and around the world, including long-standing participation in this parade," read a statement from the automaker. "No one person, group or event reflects Ford's views on every issue. What we can tell you is that Ford is proud of its inclusive policies. Every member of the Ford team is valued, and we provide employee benefits regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation."

It Started In The Bars

This year's decision by the brewers was spurred, in part, by an announcement last week that Club Café, a bar that has been popular with Boston's LGBT community for 30 years, would not carry Sam Adams beer until it pulled its support from the Boston parade.

The bar reversed field on Friday after the announcement from Boston Beer to withdraw support.

The New York nightspot considered to be the birthplace of the modern gay-rights, the Stonewall Inn, had previously announced plans to stop selling Guinness because of its sponsorship of the parade; it also changed course after Guinness pulled its sponsorship.