St. Patrick's Day parade boycotts: Inside the LGBTQ controversy

St. Patrick's Day parade policies spark prote... 02:46

The Saint Patrick's Day Parade, billing itself as the world's oldest and largest, will make history for another reason Monday. New York City leaders are boycotting the event, and they are not alone. Major sponsors are walking off as well. At issue is the role of gay rights supporters.

Some 250,000 people are expected to march up Fifth Avenue today for New York's parade. But for the first time in decades, the city's mayor will not be among them.

It comes a day after Boston's mayor boycotted his city's parade in solidarity with the gay community.

Irish pride was out in force at the St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, but the city's Irish-American mayor sat this one out.

Mayor Marty Walsh said, "I'm not marching in the parade if people can't express who they are. ... We agreed on everything expect for the banner. Five letters, LGBTQ."

Walsh says parade organizers refused to allow a group of gay veterans to march with a banner identifying them as LGBTQ, which stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer."

Organizers said in a statement they would "...not allow anyone to express harmful or inappropriate messages, " and that, "this was a decision we made for the good of this parade."

But the decision led the maker of Sam Adams beer to withdraw its corporate sponsorship of the parade.

The New York City parade also lost key sponsors over the exclusion of LGBT groups, first Heineken, and most recently, Guinness. The Irish brewer cited its history as "an advocate for equality" saying it had hoped the "...policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year's parade."

Melissa Mark-Viverito is speaker of the New York City Council, which is officially boycotting the parade. She said, "The pressure mounts when you have sponsors that are helping make the parade successful through monetary contributions taking that kind of a bold step. I think that sends a very strong message."

The council is following the lead of the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who said in February, "I am not planning on marching in the parade. I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade."

This will be the first time in the parade's 253-year history that neither the mayor nor city council will be represented.

"This is a parade organization that refuses to catch up with the times," Mark-Viverito said. "We've seen some incredible advances on issues of gay rights and so that needs to be recognized."

Several groups plan to protest along the parade route where as many as a million spectators are expected. CBS News reached out for a comment from the parade organizers in New York, but got no response so far.