Some of the nation's largest beer marketers sided with gay rights groups -- and against Rupert Murdoch -- as they withdrew support for St. Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston over concerns about freedom of expression.
Diageo-owned Guinness pulled its support for the New York parade because organizers banned gay groups from openly identifying their sexuality.
"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," Diageo said in a statement. "As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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."
Heineken USA similarly pulled its support, saying in a statement that "we believe in equality for all people. For that reason, we are no longer a sponsor of Monday's parade."
The decision sparked debate on social media, including from News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who charged Guinness with being "bullied" by gay rights organizations.
Where will this end? Guinness pulls out of religious parade bullied by gay orgs who try to take it over. Hope all Irish boycott the stuff— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) March 17, 2014
Meanwhile, fans expressed a wide range opinions on the brand's Facebook page, from praise for having the "guts to stand up for what's right" to criticism for making "a political statement out of a usually proud celebration."
The New York boycotts came after Sam Adams-maker Boston Beer Co. pulled its support for Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday, citing disappointment that an agreement could not be reached allowing "everyone, regardless of orientation, to participate in the parade." The brewer had been participating in the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade for nearly a decade.
The parade's organizer, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, failed to reach an agreement with a gay rights group called MassEquality, which had sought permission for LGBT veterans to march with a rainbow flag.
South Boston Allied War Veterans Council stated in a recent press release that "the reason for this rejection was a clear violation of our 'No sexual orientation' rule, and not that we ban gay people as reported by the press."