01 Jun Should corporate Australia care about marriage equality?
In Australia – in case you’ve missed it – same sex couples still can’t get married. With the world is congratulating Ireland on its recent ‘yes” vote for gay marriage, when will Australia be next?
Here we are in 2015. It has been more than a decade since the first country legalised gay marriage. We now have nearly 20 countries that have legalised gay marriage around the world and in a poll from almost a year ago, there is growing support from the community in marriage equality.
At a recent event organised by Australian Marriage Equality hundreds of business people came together to show their support for marriage equality. The event was part of a push for corporates to show support on the social issue. Speaking at the event were some of Australia’s corporate leaders, including Michael Ebeid CEO and Managing Director of public broadcaster SBS and Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas.
“When I was in my early twenties I was absolutely terrified at work that people would find out I was gay. I used up so much energy worrying about that and hiding it and making up stories and all that sort of stuff,” said Ebeid. Imagine going to work every day and hiding who you are – it’s a reality for lots of Australians.
Also speaking at the event was Ann Sherry CEO of Carnival Cruises, who pointed out: “If Australia was actually Australia Pty Ltd, it would be illegal to discriminate.” This is a startling, but true statement.
The event also discussed whether corporate organisations should get behind marriage equality, even if it puts them at risk of isolating some of its consumer base. Increasingly, we are seeing corporate organisations expressing public support towards social-issues. Whether it to be through campaigns, or CEOs expressing their views in an interview, there are more brands voicing their opinion on issues outside of the functional nature of their business. We tell businesses to be true and trustworthy, and if it’s taking a look at the pulse of today and voicing an opinion, it not only helps to amplify the movement but also shows support for those within the organisation and wider community.
As Mr Ebeid said: “Marriage equality is very important for corporations, so that people don’t feel that they are a second-class citizen. At the moment the law allows that to happen. Society is saying to these people your partnership with your life partner is second rate, we are discriminating against them.”
With brands taking a bold stand on social-issues, we are also seeing some of the best integrated communication campaigns. An example of this is The Shred of Decency campaign by Daintree Paper. This campaign aimed to keep the ‘lies and hate’ out of the marriage equality debate in the lead up to the referendum in Ireland. It did this by turning anti-gay pamphlets and hate mail into confetti for same-sex weddings. While it was a small campaign, it was an idea that had a huge impact. It received lots of airtime, primarily because of its simple yet powerful action and the fact that it related to a social issue that the majority of the public was passionately vocal about.
With more brands getting involved on social issues and the community speaking up on things that matter to them, we almost expect brands to speak out and voice its opinion. The best ones that do this have a call to action, generate awareness and get people talking.