By Dorothy Thompson.
I personally support same sex marriage. In a somewhat short life full of challenges and problems, who has the right to deny anyone the joy of love and happiness? I am however concerned with the protection of the rights of people who object to supplying services to a same sex marriage. I fear that the more extreme fringes that sit in positions of power, in for example the Human Rights Commission, could use it to persecute those that do not agree with them.
In a stance that might be seen to be an attack on freedom of speech and religion (which is enshrined in section 116 of the Australian Constitution) it would seem that the stance certain members of the Advertising Industry have been endeavouring to shut down debate ahead of a postal plebiscite on same sex marriage. They have called on their industry peers to refuse to work for companies campaigning for a No vote.
This action is being championed by a Creative Partner at Royals, Nick Cummins, who says; “The Say No To No campaign was launched on Thursday and has already been backed by more than 500 employees from advertising agencies across the country as well as media companies, including Southern Cross Austereo and Buzzfeed”.
He further states; “The messages that will upset many in our community, messages that may push some of us into depression or, even worse, to take our own lives. Depending on the research you look at, people who identify as being gay or lesbian are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience anxiety and/or depression, largely due to homophobic harassment and violence”.
Mr Cummins defended the boycott, describing it as; “no different to refusing to work for a tobacco company”.
He went on to say; “When it comes to marriage equality somehow we have forgotten that a fair go for all is at our core”.
What supports of this proposition may have failed to consider fully is that a “fair go” means we tolerate people with differing views to our own. We should not be in the business of bullying or intimidating anyone in an effort to prevent them from expressing their personal views. This is the essence of not giving people a fair go.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said; “The initiative demonstrated that intolerance was at the heart of the same-sex marriage campaign. Disagreement isn’t just wrong it’s not allowed.”
“I would say to advertisers, don’t allow yourself to be coerced by political groupthink, and political correctness.”
Legal academic Augusto Zimmermann said; “The boycott, while not illegal, was a serious display of undemocratic behaviour”.
“Although the federal government has committed itself to holding a plebiscite so that the people will be allowed to decide the matter, I wonder how this can be achieved when advocates of the traditional view are prevented from expressing their opinions by intolerant activists,” he said.
Marriage Alliance spokeswoman Sophie York has complained; “The campaign to keep existing marriage laws intact had previously been subjected to censorship bids, including media bans on past advertisements”.
“We have been saying for years that this vote would be a vote on freedom of speech and the ad industry just proved it,” she said. “The message our opponents are sending is simple and clear: if you disagree, you shouldn’t be heard.”
Liberal MP and marriage-equality advocate Tim Wilson however expressed little sympathy.
“The No campaign wanted this plebiscite and shouldn’t be surprised others want to hold them to account for putting the legal standing of other people’s relationships to a vote,” he said.
Mr Cummins said “Luckily we can do something. Imagine if every agency, Production Company, sound designer or illustrator said ‘No’ to working on these harmful ads.”
“Imagine then our friends in media also standing up and saying No to the No campaign.”
Mr Cummins also said “I liken it to making a decision not to work for a company. It’s a big industry group hug.”
How much of a group hug was undertaken when fringe activists bombarded Sydney’s Mercure Hotel with so many threats that it cancelled a meeting of Christians, including the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.
The situation was made worse when the taxpayer-funded ABC, hijacked by the Left, campaigns so aggressively for same-sex marriage that for the first time in living memory management felt it necessary to send staff a memo warning them of their legal duty to be impartial.
“Please remember that approximately 40 per cent of the population opposes the change and more importantly that the ABC does not have a position on the issue,” pleaded ABC News Editorial Policy Manager Mark Maley.
“It is very important that we are impartial.”
Yet SBS, the other taxpayer-funded broadcaster, has banned a commercial from the Australian Marriage Forum warning against same sex marriage.
Meanwhile, those who are opposed to gay marriage are somehow manage to being sued. The Catholic Archbishop of Hobart has already been ordered by Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal to show cause why he should be allowed to keep preaching. Two more preachers, one a Presbyterian Pastor, have been taken to the tribunal by a same-sex marriage activist.
It is important not to forget that a Senate Select Committee warned unanimously in a report in February this year that there weren’t enough legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage.
Since then, Liberal MPs have talked of needing laws to stop priests and celebrants from being sued for not performing same-sex weddings.
But if there’s little protection for religious practitioners, there’s even less for anyone objecting for philosophical reasons or for those who fear what might happen as the marriage tradition weakens.
Institute for Civil Society Executive Director Mark Sneddon has said: “the non-religious have no protection under federal or state anti-discrimination laws or the Fair Work Act”.
A spokeswoman for Southern Cross Austereo said it would not require any employee to create an ad for the Yes or No campaign “If they are not willing to do so”. But he said, as a media firm it had a responsibility to ensure “All positions that are expressed in a reasonable and responsible way are given the opportunity to be aired and it was prepared to run ads for both campaigns”.
Remember what John F Kennedy said:
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”