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Heineken, Sam Adams pull support of St. Patrick's Day parades

St. Patrick's Day revelers
Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images

St. Patrick’s Day parades will go on in Boston and New York City, but without the support of beer makers Heineken and Sam Adams, who pulled their sponsorships of the events because of a ban on sexually-themed floats. The situation has led to incorrect reports and misleading statements that gays were banned from the parades. However, both parades allow gays to participate, but do not allow sexually-themed floats and displays, gay or straight.

After pressure from LGBT groups and threats of boycotts, both beer companies asked parade organizers to change their policies to allow openly-gay participants and displays, but they refused. Before Sam Adams backed out of the parade, a Boston bar led a boycott of Sam Adams beer because they continued to support the parade.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council and a volunteer group New York citizens affiliated with the Catholic Church organize the parades for their respective cities, and while each allows gays to participate, sexually-oriented floats and displays are not allowed. Organizers were concerned about possible displays seen in some gay pride parades, which are sometimes not family friendly.

The official website for the New York City parade does not directly address the issue, but in discussing its history, it does state “in the early 90's, the Parade was attacked for its’ traditional values and in the resulting lawsuits, the organizers’ rights were upheld all the way to the US Supreme Court.” In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled the parade could exclude any group for any reason.

Contrary to statements by both beer companies and a number of media reports, the parades are not banning gays from their parades, only sexually-themed or oriented displays and floats. Sam Adams incorrectly made the assertion that gays were banned from the parade. In a company statement, a spokesman said that they hoped the parade would “allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade. However, given the current status of negotiations, this may not be possible.” A Heineken statement said that they “believe in equality for all.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh have both refused to participate in the parades because of the situation.

The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council stood firm against sexually-themed floats and displays, saying “We invite all to join us to celebrate this historic event, but we must maintain our guidelines to insure the enjoyment and public safety of our spectators.”

The position of the Sam Adams Beer seems to be at odds with Adams himself, who was deeply religious and defended the rights of Christians to observe and protect their beliefs. Adams once said “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.” He also once stated “The rights of colonists as Christians...may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”

Victor Medina writes for Yahoo News and his political blog His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News and He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at Click here to receive a weekly email update from To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SUBSCRIBE link here or at the top of this page.

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