Coopers Brewery says it supports marriage equality and did not mean to make light of the issue amid furore over a promotional video that was accused of spreading an “anti same-sex marriage” sentiment.
Pubs across Australia have begun boycotting Coopers beer after the company appeared to sponsor a contentious video released by the Bible Society Australia.
Many viewers of the Bible Society’s video jumped to the conclusion that the film was condemning marriage equality, but Coopers had maintained that it aimed to encourage “balanced debate” of the issue.
Coopers Brewery directors Tim and Melanie Cooper said the company had not signed off on the controversial video.
“Coopers never intended to make light of such an important issue and would never and did not approve the making or release of The Bible Society video debate,” Mr Cooper said in a video posted to social media.
The Bible Society was one of a number of charities the brewery company supports, but the company will no longer release special-edition packaging to celebrate The Bible Society’s 200th birthday, he said.
“Coopers Brewery is and has always been supportive of diversity and encourages individualism,” Ms Cooper said.
“Our company supports marriage equality.”
Ms Cooper said the company was “deeply sorry” over the issue and would join Marriage Equality Australia.
LGBT rights activist James Brechney had earlier launched a petition that has attracted more than 1400 signatures in 24 hours.
The petition calls for the boycott of all Coopers products and encourages venues to “remove their supplier deals” with the brewer, demanding a public apology from the company.
Sydney’s Hollywood Hotel backed the boycott by placing an apology note on their Coopers tap informing customers that it would refrain from serving the beer, with other venues following their lead, including Melbourne-based Sircuit Bar which posted footage of staff disposing of its Coopers stock in a rubbish bin.
The Bible Society video featured Liberal federal politicians Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie, dubbed the “MP for same-sex marriage” and “MP for traditional marriage” respectively, clinking Coopers bottles with host Matt Andrews, engaging in a discussion about the differing views on marriage equality.
Mr Wilson said he believed marriage should include “two people regardless of their gender”, while Mr Hastie maintained that the union between a man and a woman should not be redefined.
Petition founder Mr Brechney told The New Daily he did not believe the video encouraged “healthy debate”.
“I believe it is skewed to favour marriage inequality and clearly the Bible Society holds an anti-marriage equality view generally. So a big brand assisting their content is aligning themselves with that position,” he said.
“I think a lot of the backlash is around the idea it’s a topic that is able to be a ‘light’ debate.
“Moreover, the Coopers initial press release stated it’s a debate we have to have. A lot of us in the community are fed up with the idea that marriage equality needs much further exploration. We just want politicians to get on with their jobs and beer brands can stay out of it.”
When asked whether he felt it was important to have discussions to help people see both sides of the debate or be more open to the idea of same-sex marriage, Mr Brechney said he would “have to review the video again”.
Mr Brechney admitted to The New Daily he did not know what Coopers Brewery’s position on marriage equality was, or whether the company even had a position.
After releasing an initial statement defending the video as “lighthearted debate that we need to have”, Coopers Brewery later denied its involvement in the Bible Society video entirely after the backlash.
“Coopers have released commemorative cans of Premium Light beer to celebrate The Bible Society’s 200th anniversary. In doing so, we aren’t trying to push a religious message, we see these commemorative cans as a celebration of the Bible Society’s 200 years of charitable work in Australia,” the statement read.
“We want you to know that Coopers did not give permission for our Premium Light beer to feature in, or ‘sponsor’ the Bible Society’s Keeping it Light video featuring Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson.
“We respect the beliefs of our community and do not wish to try and change them. Our family brewery is made up of individuals from a number of different backgrounds, all of whom hold differing views on politics and religion, which we think is reflective of the wider community.”