Today we start off the week with a post from our newest blogger, Lucas Vazquez, a rising junior studying Journalism and Sociology.
The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City has recently generated some controversy over its decision to prohibit LGBT groups and individuals from carrying pro-gay rights signs during the parade. This of course triggered a strong response from elected officials, the LGBT community, and the private sector.
One of the first to respond was New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is the first mayor in decades to refuse to participate in the city’s famous parade. As a result, de Blasio has broken the status quo by proactively embracing the LGBT community in New York City, giving them the necessary support that they are just beginning to experience.
Yet one of the most unexpected responses came from Guinness, Ireland’s most famous beer that widely symbolizes Irish culture and pride. They decided to pull their sponsorship of the parade due to the exclusion of LGBT groups. “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,” the company stated. Although Guinness may claim to have always supported LGBT equality, their decision was likely a result of organized pressure from gay rights groups and the LGBT community. Before Guinness decided to pull their sponsorship, activist groups threatened to boycott its products if the beer company continued to sponsor the parade. The Stonewall Inn, a famous bar in the West Village that witnessed the birth of the gay rights movement, also planned to stop selling Guinness to their customers if the company refused to respond to their demands. Clearly, if the threat of a boycott was never present, Guinness’ decision to protest the parade by withdrawing their sponsorship would have most likely never been made, demonstrating the power and effectiveness of the LGBT movement.
Although this organized response did not successfully prompt St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers to reverse their decision, it did show how the LGBT movement has penetrated the mainstream by gaining support from large and powerful individuals and organizations. The implications of these responses are not just limited to the exclusion of certain individuals from marching in the parade, but more importantly demonstrate how public opinion is starting to shift towards supporting the rights of the LGBT community as a result of the ceaseless fight for equality.