There's a battle brewing after popular beer brands Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams pulled their sponsorships of St. Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston, each citing organizers' restrictions on gay and lesbian participants as a central reason for cutting ties.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded Monday with a call for Catholics to boycott all three companies.
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"No gay person has ever been barred from marching in any St. Patrick's Day parade, anymore than the parade bans pro-life Catholics or vegetarian Catholics," Donohue said in a press release. "They simply cannot march under their own banner. The parade has one cause: honoring St. Patrick. Those who disagree do not have to march -- that's what diversity is all about."
Noting that St. Patrick's Day parades are Catholic in nature, he charged activists with engaging "in a bullying campaign" against the events, claiming that these individuals and forces have "contempt for the constitutional rights of Irish Catholics."
Donogue's claims came after Guinness brewery became the latest company to announce it was cutting ties with the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, citing diversity concerns in a statement that was widely touted and praised Sunday by GLAAD, a gay and lesbian rights organization.
"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," read the Guinness statement. "As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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."
Heineken, too, pulled sponsorship from the New York parade.
"We believe in equality for all," said a Heineken USA spokeswoman, according to CNN Money.
And Sam Adams, a popular beer brand owned by Boston Beer Company, decided to pull its sponsorship of the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade.
"We were hopeful an agreement could be reached to allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in this parade," the Massachusetts-based company said in a statement. "However, given the current status of the negotiations, this may not be possible."
Bagpipers march in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade along Fifth Ave in Manhattan on March 17, 2014 in New York City. (Getty Images/Andrew Burton)
GLAAD praised the companies' decision, specifically citing Guinness' choice to pull sponsorship.
"Today, Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees: discrimination should never be celebrated," GLAAD CEO and president Sarah Kate Ellis said. "As a gay mom who has fond memories of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, it saddens me that I can't give those same memories to my own kids because my family isn't welcome."
Gay and lesbian activists were also given a boost by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. While Walsh opted out of the parade, de Blasio opted to participate in a gay-friendly alternative celebration in Queens -- "St. Pat's For All," the Huffington Post reported.
Gays and lesbians are permitted to march in the parades, though they are not allowed to carry signs or banners identifying themselves or advocate gay rights, according to the Huffington Post.
(H/T: Huffington Post)