It is as traditional as the Stars and Stripes and mom’s apple pie. The annual St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. But protests over a ban on gay groups marching together led to boycotts this year.
The Big Apple’s newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio was absent in support of the protesters while on the eve of the parade brewery giant Guinness joined Heineken in dropping their sponsorship. It was a similar story at the Boston parade.
“It’s clearly homophobic, and the city should not in any way participate in something that is homophobic. And when the NYPD marches in their uniform, that is like the city giving its stamp of approval,” said Eustacia Smith a member of the group “Irish Queer.”
The organisers of the 253-year-old parade – the biggest of its kind in the world said that gay and lesbian people could join in but not carry specific banners with gay-rights statements.
“They can march, no one is stopping them, just not under the wrong banner. With different counties, they can march with their counties. But they just want to bring attention to themselves and you know it’s not the place for it,” said Brendan Magennis, an Irish American who was watching the parade.
New York and Boston have long been seen as two of the most liberal cities in the US. But organisers of the parades, which draw over one million visitors, have excluded openly gay marchers for many years as they believe it would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage.