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Beer makers drop out of St. Patrick's parades that ban openly gay marchers

A drummer plays during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 16, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A drummer plays during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, March 16, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Anna Hiatt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two major beer manufacturers on Friday dropped sponsorship of St. Patrick's Day parades in New York City and Boston to protest bans on gays marching openly.

Sam Adams pulled out of Boston's parade, which takes place on Sunday, and Heineken yanked its support of the New York City parade, slated for Monday. Both parades are allowing gay groups to march but are banning signage about sexual orientation.

Sam Adams made the announcement after coming under pressure from Club Cafe, a Boston bar patronized by the gay community. The bar threatened in a Facebook post on Thursday to stop pouring Sam Adams unless the company withdrew sponsorship.

"We were hopeful that both sides of this issue would be able to come to an agreement that would allow everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade," Jessica Paar, a spokeswoman for Boston Beer Company, which brews Sam Adams, said in a statement.

"But given the current status of the negotiations, we realize this may not be possible."

Gay rights activists praised Heineken's decision.

"Heineken sent the right message to LGBT youth, customers and employees who simply want to be part of the celebration," Sarah Kate Ellis, president of gay rights group GLAAD, said in a statement.

A Heineken representative told CNBC on Friday: "We believe in equality for all. We are no longer a sponsor of Monday's parade."

In February, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would not be marching in this year's parade in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has vowed not to attend the parade unless LGBT groups are allowed to march openly.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)

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