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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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‘Legal issues over Hey Dad! media frenzy’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2010)

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Those who read Australian newspapers will not be able to ignore the recent case surrounding the allegation of sexual abuse by the retired actor, Robert Hughes, in the long running television comedy series, Hey Dad!.  The media all seems to be giving the impression that Robert Hughes is quite possibly guilty of sexual abuse of several female cast members.  What is interesting is whether the media attention to this case would jeopardise the subsequent court hearing.

ACTOR Robert Hughes could have a potential criminal case against him thrown out of court because of the media frenzy surrounding the Hey Dad! sex scandal, a legal expert has warned.

Greg Barns, a director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said it was possible a judge might find Hughes unable to receive a fair trial…

Mr Barns said that the people calling for Hughes to be charged could be hindering the legal process.

”The difficulty I had with what A Current Affair has done is it has effectively carried out a trial without the safety of a trial,” he said. ”It’s aired very serious allegations on an individual … it has created a feeding frenzy around Mr Hughes.”

He said the attention could make it ”harder” for Hughes to get a fair trial if charges were laid.

”Particularly with someone high profile like that, it can taint a jury pool,” he said.

This raises an interesting question.  What should be the responsibility of the media in dealing with legally sensitive cases, especially those involving public figures?