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Media updates – marriage equality debate in Australia

April 17, 2016 Leave a comment

 

marriage-equality-concept-gay-rights-43089788There have a few media articles that I would draw your attention to. They really highlight the roles of NGO lobby groups as well as media in pushing and shaping public attitudes towards the issue of marriage equality, as well as changing or consolidating the stance of key MPs involved in the legislative process.

The first media article has to do with the Catholic Church in Australia lobbying several CEOs of major Australian firms to stop supporting marriage equality. (‘Church told gay CEOs at Qantas, SBS to stop supporting marriage equality’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2016). Interestingly, two of these CEOs are themselves gay. These firms included Qantas, Telstra and a major law firm called Maurice Blackburn. These CEOs have previously stated their support for marriage equality, with Telstra’s CEO stating that this is about “equality” for him.

Thus far, it appears the counter-lobbying by the Catholic Church might have worked, with Telstra deciding to step back from its public support for marriage equality, prompting threats of boycotts by some LGBTI activists. However, other telecommunication firms like Vodafone have stated their support for marriage equality.

Why is corporate support for this issue significant? First of all, major corporations are major employers.  Therefore, their corporate policies, including employment and employee management policies help shape social norms. This includes integration of anti- homophobia and anti-discrimination policies. In this sense, they are ANOTHER example of a non-government organisation playing a role in shaping public perceptions and by extension, law reforms.

This news, incidentally, can be read in comparison with news from North Carolina and Mississippi about major firms (e.g. Microsoft, Google, Apple, K-Mart) expressing opposition to new state laws that discriminate against lesbians, gays and transgender persons, with major firms stating that they would reconsider whether to invest in North Carolina and Mississippi. (‘Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina’, New York Times, 5 April 2016)

Secondly, for major public corporations to step into the political turf war that is marriage equality debate throws further light on this issue. It also underlines the role of media in facilitating public awareness and discussions on this issue.

Second media article is about Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison sharing a stage with a prominent anti-gay rights activist, Eric Metaxas, in an upcoming Australian Christian Lobby conference. (‘Scott Morrison to share Australian Christian Lobby stage with anti-gay extremists‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2016).  Metaxas has made several controversial statements about the marriage equality lobby, including comparing them to the rise of Nazism in Germany.  This article underlines one of the key roles that lobby groups have played in this issue, namely to connect with key MPs who are involved in the legislative process.  The same, incidentally, can also be said for Australian Marriage Equality and their lobbying of key MPs like Senator Wong (ALP) and the PM Malcolm Turnbull (Lib), both of whom attended the 2016 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as supporters.

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