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Bible Society's blunder was excluding LGBTI voices

  • 17 March 2017


It's a scene you can imagine happening at any backyard barbecue in Australia: three mates having a friendly discussion about same-sex marriage over a beer. Not much to get wound up about, right?

There's a lot of head-scratching going on in the aftermath of the Bible Society's 'Keeping it Light' video. The public backlash and subsequent boycott of Coopers (whose beer features prominently in the video) prompted the company to renounce it and even go so far as to join Australian Marriage Equality to prove it is 'supportive of diversity'.

The Bible Society didn't think the video would be a problem, but it inadvertently pushed a lot of buttons they didn't even know existed. The Bible Society genuinely thought it was helping, and seems truly surprised at the reaction to the video. There's a lot of confusion — there's no hate or outright bigotry, just a polite exchange of views. Are we really so intolerant to tolerance?

There are a lot of layers to the public's reaction to the video, but here's one: the Bible Society itself has never taken an explicit public position on the present marriage debate, but its sister organisation, the Centre for Public Christianity, only features videos and essays by people who hold an exclusively man-woman view of marriage.

It isn't a huge stretch to say that the Bible Society as an organisation probably supports the more conservative view, and the public knows, or at least suspects this to be true. Other public-facing Christian organisations have been far more vocal about their opinion on marriage and the Bible Society, fairly or unfairly, is painted with the same brush.

But the Bible Society plays the role of impartial moderator in the video. It makes the discussion feel like a setup — the umpire is playing for one of the teams! It doesn't feel like a discussion being had in good faith, which undercuts the entire basis for the campaign.

It goes deeper. There's intense frustration in the community about the inaction over same-sex marriage. The only thing preventing the legislation of the reform is the Liberal Party's insistence on having a national plebiscite instead of allowing its members to have a free vote in parliament.

But the people on each side of the discussion were both Liberal Party members drinking beer made by Coopers, a company with a long history of donating to the Liberal Party. Tim Wilson, who took the pro-reform side of