shutterstock_10137067With names like Houlihan and Harvey, we feel compelled to weigh in on the latest St. Patrick’s Day parade issue. The nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade is in New York City. Yet here, in the “Rome” of the modern world, where progressive thinking abounds, parade organizers have not yet allowed LGBT participants to carry signs and banners identifying themselves as members of that community.

This prompted New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio to say he was skipping the parade this year. In Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, says he’ll do the same unless the Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade organizers let a gay military veterans group march along with the rest.

What are the organizers thinking? We hope they will change their tune before St. Patty’s Day. As modern Americans of Irish decent, this is downright embarrassing for us. What kind of a message does the conspicuous absence of such a large portion of our citizens send to our youth? We ALL have friends, relatives, customers, suppliers, service providers, or constituents in the LGBT community.

Parades are opportunities for diverse groups to say, “Hey, you know us, we are part of your family, we’re part of your community, we serve you, and we are proud of who we are!” This type of public exposure acknowledges their contributions to our society and thereby discourages marginalization and intolerance. To specifically disallow members of the LGBT community from identifying themselves as such is like trying to say the Irish community does not have, or even condone, its LBGT members.

Of the gay veterans group being prevented from participation in the Boston parade, Mayor Walsh says, “It’s 2014 – it’s far beyond the time where we should be even having this discussion because they’re veterans who fought for this country, just like any other veteran.” It can’t get much clearer than that.

Although the LGBT community is considered mainstream by most folks who have been reading the news, the community still faces ongoing challenges from ultra-conservative groups who continue to try to marginalize them. This type of behavior from the organizers of the New York and Boston St Patrick’s Day parade doesn’t help. Why not be on the right side of history by allowing these folks who have suffered discrimination for so long to identify themselves – and thereby reduce the perpetuation of ignorance and fear in the next generation? The choice is clear. The organizers can be part of the future or part of the past. They can be heroes to the Irish LGBT community or pariahs that can give the Irish community, and the cities in which the parades are hosted, a black eye. At least these mayors recognized the political, social and financial implications to their towns.

The last time we looked, the rainbow flag had a prominent green stripe in it! And isn’t the proverbial pot o’gold at the end of that rainbow? So, happy St. Patrick’s Day to all our friends, be they Irish or not, be they LGBT or straight!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact