The relationship between the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Samuel Adams beer has fizzled out, and the famous Boston brewery isn’t the only local company distancing itself from the event over its exclusion of openly gay participants.
As of Friday afternoon, the “support” page on the parade’s website listed no corporate logos. Instead, the page said in large orange type: “We’re updating our supporters, thank you for your patience.”
The group Mass Resistance, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote a blog post on Friday accusing the parade’s sponsors of asking to have their logos taken off the official site. The group is calling on “pro-family” activists to boycott any sponsor that boycotts the parade. “The organizers of the Catholic-oriented pro-family South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade are under siege by the media, politicians, and ‘gay’ activists because of their principled stand against the homosexual agenda,” the group wrote. “The Massachusetts liberal establishment is pressuring them to include blatant homosexual-activist groups in the parade and threatening the parade’s financial livelihood if it doesn’t relent.”
According to Mass Resistance, a number of companies in addition to Sam Adams have asked to have their logos removed -- including the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, New England Coffee Company and the Gillette unit of Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG). A cached version of the parade website reveals that Gillette and the Westin Hotel had, until recently, been listed as “top supporters” of the parade.
Kurt Iverson, a Gillette spokesman, said that designation was inaccurate. “We are not a sponsor,” he told IBTimes in an email. “We cooperate with the city to allow our parking lot to be a staging area for the start of the parade, so that may be where the confusion lies.”
Iverson said he was not aware if Gillette specifically asked to have its logo removed from the website. Spokespeople for the Westin Hotel and the New England Coffee Company did not immediately respond to requests, nor did the parade organizers.
In a widely reported statement on Friday, Boston Beer Co. Inc. (NYSE:SAM), owner of the Samuel Adams brand, said it would not participate in the parade this year after nearly a decade of support. The statement from spokeswoman Jessica Paar was posted on the website of the gay-rights group MassEquality. It follows a winding battle between city officials, who think LGBT individuals should be able to participate openly in the event, and parade organizers, who say identifying symbols such as gay-pride banners and rainbow flags detract from the parade’s aim as a celebration of Irish heritage.
“We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade,” the statement said. “But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible.”
Boston’s newly elected Mayor Martin Walsh, an Irish-American, has said he will not march in the 113-year-old event until it lifts its prohibition of openly gay participation. His decision echoes a similar one from New York’s newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is the first New York mayor in two decades to boycott the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade.
In both cases, parade organizers say they simply want the events to be non-political. But a political fight is raging nonetheless, one with all the emotionally charged pushing -- and pushback -- such schisms typically involve.
The parade is presented by the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council. The council’s full statement on its LBGT policy can be found here.