NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The President of the Catholic League this week took issue after Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to march, and sponsors withdrew, from the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade amid a dispute over whether participants can carry pro-gay signs.
Speaking to radio talk show host Steve Malzberg, Catholic League President Bill Donohue said he is boycotting Guinness and Heineken after they withdrew their sponsorship over the issue, and said he has applied to march in the city’s LGBT Pride March with a banner reading “Straight Is Great.”
“I’m going to go after Guinness bigtime, nonstop, relentlessly, and the result that I’m getting already from people is absolutely overwhelming,” he said. “They have really made a serious mistake, Guinness, in trying to stick it to Roman Catholics.”
De Blasio boycotted the parade because organizers said marchers were not allowed to carry gay-friendly signs or identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Guinness also bruptly dropped its sponsorship of the parade on Sunday over the controversy, saying the company “has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all.”
The Dublin-based company pulled sponsorship assets, including on-air presence, parade participation and any promotional materials that weren’t already printed, although the beer maker had already made a payment to parade organizers, spokeswoman Alix Dunn said.
Other beer companies went on to join the boycotts, with Sam Adams withdrawing its sponsorship of Boston’s parade and Heineken following suit in New York.
Donohue said the parade was not discriminating against the LGBT community, but rather does not allow any groups or banners expressing political or social causes of any kind.
“I led my own contingent – it’s not a big contingent, about 100 people or so – on St. Patrick’s Day on Monday. I didn’t ask people what they do in bed and with whom – if you’re homosexual, heterosexual. If you’re pro-life – I happen to be pro-life, but I will not allow you with a pro-life banner to join us. That’s the stricture, the rule of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the same is true for every other cause,” he said.
He said parade participants march in units representing their parish, county, or organization such as the NYPD, but said that is different from marching for a cause.
“This is not the place for some political cause. It’s there to honor the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick. If you don’t agree that that’s what diversity means, then practice tolerance and go your own way,” Donohue said.
He told Malzberg he had filed to march under the “Straight Is Great” banner in the Pride March to make a point.
“I said listen, ‘I want to march under my own banner – “Straight Is Great” – in the 2014 Heritage of Pride Parade. Do you agree? Do you want to let me do it or not?’ I’m waiting to see what they say,” he said. “They have rules, by the way – and by the way, they have a right to have their rules – which says you have to have LGBT signs. You can’t, if you’re a corporation sponsor, they’ll take your money, but you have to have your corporation logo. All right, you can disagree with their rules, but that’s their parade. Why don’t they respect us when it comes to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade?”
Organizers of the Pride Parade told BuzzFeed Donohue had made a request by e-mail, but had not filled out a formal application to participate Monday night. Organizers told the publication a decision on his participation has not been issued.
On Monday, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said he supports the participation of individual gays.
“I know that there are thousands and thousands of gay people marching in this parade,” he said. “I know it. And I’m glad they are.”
Dolan noted that he’s not part of the parade leadership and therefore not responsible for who participates. He declined to comment on the mayor’s boycott.
“I’m just hoping this is a day of unity and radiance and joy, I hope, bringing us all together,” Dolan said.
Many New Yorkers seemed split over the controversy.
“Regarding the mayor marching, he has his own free will, he can do as he pleases,” one parade goer told CBS 2’s Kramer.
“I feel they should be able to march, but not under their own banner like everybody else,” said another.
New York’s 253-year-old St. Patrick’s Day Parade draws about 200,000 participants every March 17 and has long been a mandatory stop on the city’s political trail.
The Pride March is set for June 29.
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