Sponsors Flee Boston’s Homophobic St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
March 14 2014 6:35 PM

Slán Go Fóill! Sponsors Flee Boston’s Homophobic St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Spectators react to the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston during their appearance in the 1993 South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Spectators react to the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston during their appearance in the 1993 South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade. The organizers' attitude doesn't seem to have changed since then.

Photo by John Mottern/AFP/Getty Images

Following weeks of back-and-forth negotiations, the organizers of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade have once again decided to prohibit LGBTQ groups from marching. As a result of the prolonged unpleasantness, several corporate sponsors have ended their support for the parade.

Back in February, under pressure from Boston’s new mayor, Martin Walsh, it seemed that LGBT Veterans for Equality would be permitted to march as long as they refrained from broadcasting their orientation in any way. (In other words: No homosexual propaganda.)

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But on March 3, officials from the Allied Veteran’s War Council, which organizes the event, claimed that statewide LGBTQ advocacy group MassEquality had lied about the number of veterans who would be marching with the gay group, and it withdrew permission. AWVC has repeatedly accused MassEquality of “using a ploy to enter this parade under false pretenses.” Essentially, it suggests that MassEquality manufactured the gay veterans group just so it could march.

In a venomous follow-up press release issued on March 6, AWVC explained its rejection of the gay “Trojan Horse” this way:

We will not allow anyone to express harmful or inappropriate messages. This was a decision we made for the good of this parade. Keep in mind, we are approached by all types of groups. Some of which try to destroy the integrity of not only this parade, but our faith, this town and our Country. And to those we say, “No!, stay home, Not in my town.”

But many LGBTQ veterans aren’t having it. Earlier this week, MassEquality issued a response signed by a dozen veterans wishing to march in Sunday’s parade. It began:

We write first and foremost, to reject allegations made by the Allied War Veterans Council that we do not exist. … We fought too long and too hard to be able to serve our country openly to retreat back into the closet in order to march in a parade.

Corporate sponsors have taken note, and many have said “Slán go fóill!” to  the South Boston parade. Earlier this month, the parade’s website prominently featured the names and logos of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co.), and Gillette as primary sponsors. When Westin and Gillette officials denied their support for the march, their company logos were removed from the website. Sam Adams was listed as a sponsor until yesterday, when the brewing company formally withdrew its support. Currently, the parade’s sponsor page says, “We’re updating our supporters, thank you for your patience.” (It's hardly a surprise that hospitality chains, alcohol vendors, and personal hygiene companies would side with the gay community.)

On Thursday, Mayor Walsh insisted that an agreement could be reached before Sunday’s parade. For the organizers, however, it may already be too late. Right now, its homepage is completely devoid of sponsors and peppered instead with vitriolic press releases. As it turns out, in 2014, most businesses don’t see much value in homophobia.

Tyler Lopez is a writer living in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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