The news that Guinness has withdrawn its sponsorship of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York comes as no huge surprise.
The Guinness statement reads:
“Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy.”
The last line is the most important: the fact is that inclusion is the key element in the parade this year and beyond. The parade committee needs to desperately find a way to make this work.
I have written here before that the tide has come in for a raft of LGBT issues such as gay marriage and equal protection. That is how it should be in our society.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York is part of a larger struggle that encompasses Boston’s parade, Arizona's discriminatory laws and many other issues.
None of these issues exist in isolation. They are part of a framework of ensuring that LGBT people receive the same treatment as everyone else.
The issue of fairness is paramount, and the right thing to do is to have an Irish LGBT group march in the parade with the same restrictions and rules that govern every other group.
The good news is that the Guinness withdrawal from the sponsorship of the march is accompanied with a clear commitment to try and work with community leaders and the parade committee to deal with the LGBT issue once and for all.
Other major sponsors had previously announced their withdrawal, and the argument has been framed firmly in the arena of inclusiveness as the prime issue.
Only Ford has stated that it will continue with the New York parade, but they have immediately come under withering fire from gay organizations since doing so.
Unlike the other companies that have run from the sound of gunfire, Guinness makes it clear they want to engage with the parade and help in any way they can to make progress on the issue.
Guinness could do a tremendous amount of good by bringing corporate good citizenship to bear on this issue. The parade committee will feel backed into a corner and in dire need of a plan as to how to extricate themselves.
Guinness have realized that and have extended the hand of friendship to the Irish community and parade committee to reach that point of accommodation.
They could do no more.