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Guinness withdraws sponsorship of event over the ban on gays

Guinness has withdrawn its support for the New York St Patrick's Day parade over the ban on gay and lesbian groups from taking part.

Guinness USA was a key sponsor of the event, and is the latest to heap pressure on organisers after Heineken USA and Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Company also dropped their sponsorship.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio also boycotted the march and Boston's Irish-American mayor Marty Walsh skipped his city's St Patrick's parade.

"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," the brewer said in a written statement issued by a spokesman for its UK parent company, Diageo.

"As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation.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," Guinness added.

Organisers of St Patrick's Day parades in New York and Boston, among the most liberal-leaning cities in the US, have come under increasing criticism in recent years for banning openly gay marchers.

Parade organisers argue that to do so would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage.

The Catholic Church contends that homosexual activity is immoral.

Gay rights groups welcomed Guinness' boycott of the parade. New York's Stonewall Inn, widely regarded as the birthplace of the gay rights movement, cancelled plans to stop selling Guinness.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said: "Today, Guinness sent a strong message to its customers and employees: Discrimination should never be celebrated."

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