Gay Dollars Talk: Why the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Boycotts Shouldn’t Surprise You


Culture, religion, politics and LGBTQ equality intersected this St. Patrick’s Day in Boston and New York City. Mayors of the cities along with three major brewers all took a stand for LGBTQ equality by boycotting the celebratory parades.

Guiness, Heineken and Sam Adams pulled their sponsorship of St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and Boston because of the restrictions affecting LGBTQ participants. While both parades allowed gay groups to march, they banned any signs identifying themselves by their sexual orientation.

Both city’s traditional parades have a long history of excluding gays. But, now-a-days, the idea that “separate is not equal” – a concept that was born from the civil rights movement – applies to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) citizens.

According to the New York Daily News, a New York City major hasn’t refused to participate since 1993, when then-Mayor David Dinkins “refused to take part because of the gay issue.”

Boston mayor Marty Walsh said he had spent weeks attempting to negotiate a deal between the Allied War Veterans Council, organizers of the South Boston parade, and LGBT advocacy group, MassEquality but was unsuccessful. Walsh, who is Irish, said in a statement:
“The St. Patrick’s Day parade was born out of the celebration of Evacuation Day, a day set aside to recognize and honor our military and those brave Americans who have banded together for the sake of freedom. And so much of our Irish history has been shaped by the fight against oppression.”

But this is about more than just St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Lines are being drawn in the sand – by corporations and politicians alike. In the last few years, there has been an avalanche of support from brands and politicians, which comes as no surprise when you look at the change in public opinion.

If money talks, gay dollars or “pink money,” shouts. LGBT buying power was at over $800 billion in 2013. The difference between gay households and the general American market shows that gays and lesbians have a 23% higher median household income, 24% more equity in their homes, 26% of gay men say they will pay more for top quality brands, 30% have taken a major vacation in the past year and 40% bought a new smart phone in the past year, according to Business Insider. And, as one writer pointed out, the LGBT community is loyal to the brands – and politicians – that show them love.

Target, JCPenny and even Bertoli pasta have all begun reaching out to the LGBTQ consumer market through ad campaigns. While personal feelings about equality may come into play, what’s most likely behind this change are changing attitudes about LGBTQ Americans.

A 2013 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 7-in-10, or 69 percent, of Millennials favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37 percent of Americans who are over 68. And, individual and even religious support of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights, have increased with 73 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry along with 83 percent of Jewish Americans, 62 percent of white mainline Protestants, 58 percent of white Catholics and 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics.

And, Americans who are LGBTQ report feeling this shift. According to PewResearch, 92% of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults say society has become “more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead.”

Before we give all of the credit to Millennials for this progressive change in attitude, it should be noted that some of the increased support with at least same-sex marriage is due in part to a a change of heart, according to centrist think tank Third Way. They found that all Americans in every demographic, political and religious group are changing their minds on the issue.

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