CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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With this ring I do thee… dread

SYDNEY (SE): The issue of same sex marriage has usually been regarded as a religious, community or sociological matter in which discussion properly belongs first of all to the grassroots level of society and community organisations.

However, with the launch in Australia of a national campaign called Until We All Belong, it has been escalated to the level of a corporate issue, with players like Qantas, Foxtel, the Australia and New Zealand Banking Corporation, Google and eBay all calling for the closing of what is called the gap in marriage legislation.

The corporate giants are bringing the country the acceptance ring, one that does not go the full circle, symbolising the gap in the legislation they say needs to be closed.

And while the rings may come cheap to you and me, the corporate giants have sunk some AUD5 million ($30.5 million) into the production of around 250,000 of them. Ordering one online will only sink your credit card to the tune of the postage stamp.

Designed by the same person who put the shape on business class seats in Qantas aeroplanes, they are free to media outlets.

Google is giving one to each of its 1,300 employees. Qantas has confirmed that staff and cabin crew will wear them, although they will not become part of its official uniform and not be compulsory.

However, the language adopted has an insidious ring to it, as it has been usurped from the much publicised national Close the Gap Campaign, which was aimed at addressing the profound difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal Australia and the rest of the country.

An article posted on CatholicTalk under the title of With this ring, I do thee… dread, seriously questions the social awareness and sensitivity of the nation’s corporate heads in hijacking the language from a campaign focussing on what is a life and death issue of inequality that also smacks hard of racial prejudice.

A series of videos has been released featuring various people saying they will wear the ring until their sister, brother, aunt, best friend and so on is able to belong and not be forced to slip through the gap.

Labelled as the most public corporate declaration for marriage equality in Australia to date, Monica Doumit says in her article posted on CatholicTalk, “All we have at the moment are corporate declarations on marriage, including a recent letter from more than 20 corporate chief executive officers to the prime minister attempting to change his mind on a people’s vote.”

There has been a push for a referendum on the issue of same sex marriage in Australia, but so far the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has insisted that it should be the prerogative of the parliament to decide on such legislation.

However, the corporate push has not stopped there. Doumit points out that Qantas is swapping the traditional red and white on some of its advertising for the rainbow stripes, taken out full page advertisements in national newspapers and a lot more.

“There is nothing grassroots about the campaign to redefine marriage; everything about it is a public corporate declaration,” she points out.

While Qantas has confirmed that no one will be forced to wear the ring, the high profile sponsorship of the campaign presumably places a lot of pressure on people to conform and Australia has already seen forced resignations over suspected beliefs that do not conform to company policy.

Doumit cites Mark Allaby, the managing director of IBM in the land down under. Allaby was forced to step aside from his involvement with the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, an internship programme designed to develop leadership potential in young Christians, at the behest of same sex marriage advocates on the basis that because of his Christianity he may not support their issue.

IBM did not defend his right to belong to a faith-based organisation in his own time and it was reported in The Australian, “IBM did not respond to questions about whether staff were free to engage with external organisations, including religious groups, outside of their employment with the company.”

Doumit points out, “These acceptance rings, then, pose a risk to employees who hold to the timeless definition of marriage, because it allows them to be easily identified by those who would seek to target them for demise.”

She observes that if the rings are distributed around companies that have signed up to Australian Marriage Equity, the battleground over freedom of belief, speech and religion will be won or lost in the corporate world and not on the grassroots playing ground of Australian society.

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