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The newly elected mayors of both Boston and New York City boycotted their cities’ St Patrick’s Day parades because the organisers refused to permit gay and lesbian groups to march under gay activist banners.
In Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh said: “As mayor of the city of Boston, I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city.” New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio voiced a similar concern. “I simply disagree with the organisers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” Mr de Blasio told a news conference last month. “I will be participating in a number of other events to honour the Irish heritage of this city and the contributions of Irish-Americans.”
New York parade chairman John Dunleavy insisted that lesbian and gay groups were not being excluded.
“They’re more than welcome to march, just not under their own banners,” he told local radio station WCBS 880.
In a press release, the President of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, also argued that the concerns about diversity were misplaced. “The parade has one cause: honouring St Patrick. Those who disagree do not have to march – that’s what diversity is all about.” Neither parade is organised by Catholic church organisations.
In addition to the mayors, three large brewers who usually sponsor the parades declined to do so this year, after pressure from activists. Guinness, Heineken and the Boston Beer Co. all cited the ban on lesbian and gay banners as the reason for their refusal to sponsor the parades. This, in turn, prompted the Catholic League to call for a boycott of their products. Mr Donohue said the companies, and the mayors, had been targeted by a “bullying campaign” by groups that harbour “contempt for the constitutional rights of Irish Catholics.”
The Ford Motor Company did not withdraw its sponsorship, while the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny took part in the Boston parade on Sunday and the New York parade on Monday.